York Press column: A fortnight is a long time in politics
October 11, 2023
I cannot recall another time when such monumental change has occurred between my fortnightly columns.
On the international stage, conflict has returned to the Middle East after Hamas committed a battery of heinous terrorist attacks in Israel targeting children, women and the elderly. There is no legitimacy, justification, or reasoning for this violence. These events have no relevance to discussions regarding Israel, Palestine, and the future of the region. It is quite simply a case of good versus evil and the United Kingdom stands firmly with Israel to ensure that Hamas faces full retribution for these murders.
At the time of writing, York has thankfully been spared the glorification of violence seen in London and other major cities across the world. We must unite against terror. With division, only terror can win.
While events may unfold for weeks to come, Hamas and its supporters will be brought to justice. The hope of Israel is built on the very best of humanity and it is imperative that that hope wins. Am Yisrael Chai.
Other changes in the last week clearly pale in comparison but I could not write my column without commenting on Network North and what it means for York.
With a tough decision to make, the Prime Minister once again made the right call by redirecting £36billion of funds earmarked for HS2 into the most ambitious scheme in generations for transport in the North and Midlands.
Instead, every region will receive as much, if not more funding, for many more projects starting sooner and finishing faster. Undoubtedly, York will receive far more direct investment than was ever planned under HS2.
Recently, I had been raising concern that inflation will result in Phase 1 dualling of the York Outer Ring Road between Hopgrove and the A19 would cost far more than envisioned when the Government granted funding in 2019. Additional funding has now been granted to allay those fears but we cannot allow the project to slip any further. I am joining the Conservative Party candidate for York and North Yorkshire’s first Mayor, Keane Duncan, by urging all stakeholders involved to #JustDualIt. Residents deserve faster journey times with less congestion, rather than hold ups by public officials.
Not only was funding released to get Phase 1 back on track, but new funding will be delivered to complete Phase 2 dualling the York Outer Ring Road between the A19 and Wetherby Road. Together both phases will get York moving again and make our city more attractive for businesses to invest in.
Network North is not only good news for drivers though. The £2 bus fare cap, which was due to rise to £2.50 next month, will now be extended at its current rate until the end of next year. This not only means bus users will save money but it also helps save routes. Against the odds, Keane, in his current role as Executive Member of Transport for North Yorkshire Council, has worked constructively with operators to secure the future of 80 routes previously deemed at-risk. If elected Mayor, he would takeover responsibility for local transport policy from City of York Council and I am keen to work with him to employ the lessons he has learned in our city.
The Government is not only investing in our roads but also our rail services. After nearly a century, rail services will return to Haxby after the Government granted full funding as part of Network North.
Starting among 60 applicants to the Restoring Your Railway Fund in 2020, it is a testament to the strength its case for reopening that Haxby is one of only a handful of stations to now receive full backing.
I met with the Minister for Rail only last month to once again press the case for Haxby and I am incredibly pleased he has responded so positively. A new railway station will open up connectivity for communities north of York and hopefully ease congestion along Huntington Road.
This is a much better deal for Yorkshire and a great win for connectivity for all of the North.