Six newspapers from the north of England shared the same jarring front page on Tuesday, attacking the government for potentially backing out of its vow to build a better rail network between northern cities.
The influential titles were responding to the reports that Downing Street might cut back or cancel elements of its rail plan for the north during an announcement on Thursday.
Manchester Evening News, East Riding Mail (East Yorkshire), The Journal (North East) The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, The Gazette (Teesdale) and The Chronicle (Newcastle) united and hit out at Downing Street by calling on Downing Street to ‘deliver what you promised’.
The caption is accompanied by a photoshopped image of prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak, transport secretary Grant Shapps, transport minister Andrew Stephenson – in charge of HS2 – and levelling up secretary Michael Gove.
The five politicians are in an arrangement similar to the advertising posters for the famous northern black comedy-drama film from 1996, Trainspotting.
The text below reads: “Choose the North. Choose to finally keep your rail promises. Choose new train links, shorter journey times and fewer cars on the road. Choose Northern Powerhouse Rail. Choose HS2. Choose fair transport investment. Choose our future. Choose the north.”
The Northern Powerhouse Rail, one part of the promises to level up the north of England from the Conservative Party, was supposed to create a new train line between Manchester and Leeds.
It would link up to other cities including Newcastle, Liverpool, Bradford and Sheffield to help reduce journey times across the north.
There are now reports that the government intends to scrap it altogether and instead announce upgrades to the existing route.
No.10′s spokesperson refused to commit to a new line on Monday and said: “We are committed to transforming rail connections across the Midlands and the North with shorter journey times and an accelerated timetable for delivery which allows us to bring in real benefits for communities as soon as possible.”
HS2 – a line between Birmingham and Leeds – will also be watered down, according to reports, despite repeated promises from Boris Johnson throughout his time in office.
Jennifer Williams from Manchester Evening News told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme how she has been hoping for a verdict on the extension of HS2, the Northern Powerhouse and the integrated rail plan – but this has all been delayed.
She said she expected all of the Tories’ promises for an improve railway network to arrive in a “piecemeal” fashion.
Explaining the collaboration between northern newspapers, she said: “Very often we find that we have to speak together with one voice in order to get ourselves heard – which may be testament to the political culture in this country.
“I think on this, we pretty much are on the same page. This is of a wider economic benefit to the whole of north of England, which was the whole premise in the first place.”
“This is also not the first time that we’ve done this – we got together in 2019 for a campaign called ‘Power Up The North’ which Boris Johnson backed, pretty much immediately that he became prime minister,” she continued.
“We’ve done this before and we will continue doing this as necessary.”