I am all in favour of better transport links to speed faster growth in the northern cities. I look forward to reading an appraisal of the various options for the Leeds/Manchester routes that we hear about this morning. We need a good business appraisal of capacity requirements and the cost of various options to improve journey times.
We should remember that today the train journey time between Leeds and Manchester is 50 minutes, for a distance of 45 miles ( by road). The train time for the 18 mile journey across London from Ealing to Stratford is also 50 minutes.
The Ealing to Stratford time will be reduced by Crossrail. London badly needs both more capacity and faster journey times east to west. The trains are currently very crowded for long periods of the day and evening. The idea behind the exploration of northern options is to offer improvement to the north similar to the extra capacity and speedier journeys that Crossrail will bring to London.
In London the 50 minutes from Ealing to Stratford is as good as it gets, as it is a journey on a single tube line. Ealing to Upminster, at 33 miles still less far than Leeds-Manchester, takes 1 hour 22 minutes by train and at least that time by road.
The growth of London was spurred by the construction of tube lines into the centre. These offered relatively slow trains taking direct routes into the heart of the city and meant people could live further out from the centre but still have a reasonable journey time into the business, shopping and entertainment districts at the heart of London. Cross London travel prior to Crossrail has never been great. The northern needs are different, as they have a pattern of segregated cities and the Pennines in between which has to be taken into account when working out what best transport links can promote their growth. It is good to see some positive thinking on this topic.