Uncertainty over how Cumbria will benefit from Powerhouse cash

3 October 2017 9:15PM

Uncertainty surrounds how Cumbria will benefit from a £400m funding package designed to boost transport in the north.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that the Government will make the major investment in road and rail infrastructure in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, designed to emphasise his commitment to the Northern Powerhouse project.

He said: "Poor infrastructure can be a barrier to progress. That's why, as the party of progress, we are investing record amounts to strengthen transport links."

Of this money, £100m has been earmarked for road improvements, with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirming it will include 13 "priority" projects in the north west. The rest is being spent on the HS2 rail scheme.

No details though have been released on exactly where this money will go.

Keith Little, the cabinet member for highways and transport at Cumbria County Council, hoped some of it would make its way to this area.

He said: "I would have thought some of it would come to Cumbria we have got quite a big order book in for infrastructure development.

"I would hope that the A595 (which connects Carlisle and west Cumbria) would be one of the roads considered. We would also like to see dualling work on the A66."

Mr Little though did have some concerns.

"I do not know whether these schemes are ones for three-five years time or ones where some credibility has already been done," he said.
"They make these broad brush statements and then you have to look for the details."

Last year Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) published a report identifying improvements needed in various parts of the A66, A590 A595 and A689, which it said could help promote economic growth.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, was highly critical of the Chancellor's announcement and accused Mr Hammond of "ignoring" Cumbria.

He said: "£400m is a paltry amount in the wider scheme of things. (Mr) Hammond knows that far from powering the north the Conservatives in Westminster are struggling to keep the lights on.

“This announcement comes whilst the government are announcing the shelving of other infrastructure investment across the north, project which would have cost a pittance compared to HS2. This just goes to show that once again the Conservatives continue to do all they can to prove that they don’t care about the north.”

Carlisle's Conservative MP John Stevenson though defended the Chancellor.

He said: "I think he has demonstrated that there is a funding commitment to the north and it is important that there are more infrastructure project and funding to support investment in the north.

"This is part of that and there is an expectation there will be more such funding in the Budget."

A spokesman for HM Treasury, Mr Hammond's department, said he could not comment due to the announcement being made at political party rather than Government event.

The Conservative Party's press office did not respond to requests for comment.

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