'The Northern Powerhouse was a fraud'

Reactions to the shelving of Northern Powerhouse Rail, plus the rest of your weekly briefing

Dear Millers — today’s newsletter looks at what is set to be a disappointing announcement from the government about transport investment in the North.

If you’d like an update on yesterday’s explosion outside a hospital in Liverpool, which has today been declared a “terrorist incident” by police, head over to our sister newsletter The Post, which has just published a useful summary of the key developments so far.

Yesterday we published a piece about two men who went to war. For this one, Dani went digging in Manchester’s archives to uncover their stories and look at the letters they left behind. You can read that piece here.

Don’t forget, we have a great weekly podcast which you should subscribe to on your favourite podcast app. In our latest episode, culture writer Sophie Atkinson was in the hot seat with Darryl Morris, talking about her visit to Chemnitz, one of Manchester’s twin cities — and a place that’s struggling with the far-right. You can listen to that here, including some really interesting insights into racism in Germany that weren’t in Sophie’s piece.


This week’s weather 🌥

Our weather forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles who says: “Another mild and largely dry week of weather is on the way. If you’re craving something more seasonal for mid to late November, there is a good signal for colder air to arrive during next weekend.”

Monday ⚠️ Patchy fog to start, then cloudy and damp as a weak cold front brings sporadic drizzle/light rain. Max 11°c.

Tuesday ☁️ Largely dry but cloudy. A few light showers will arrive later in the afternoon and after dark. Max 11°c.

Wednesday 🌦 Breezy with sunny spells and a few isolated blustery showers. Feeling colder than of late. Max 10°c.

Thursday 🌥 Breezy and dry with mostly cloudy skies. Very mild for the time of year. Max 14°c.

Friday 🌥 Mild, mostly dry and largely cloudy. Max 14°c.

Weekend ❄Temperatures will likely come down as we drag in colder air from the North around an area of high pressure. There will still be a lot of dry weather, but it will feel colder, especially by night, where there will be an increased risk of frost.

For the full forecast please visit Manchester Weather.


The big story: Anger over scaled-back rail investment

Top line: Leaks to the weekend newspapers suggest that the so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project will not go ahead as planned. NPR is a massive proposed scheme that was supposed to create much faster connections between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull via new lines and significantly upgraded connections.

The Guardian reports:

Details about the line were conspicuously absent from Sunday’s newspaper leaks, though building it was one of Boris Johnson’s first pledges as prime minister. Three days into the job in 2019, he gave a speech at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum, saying: “I want to be the prime minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London.” He committed in February 2020 to bringing HS2 to the north of England, building “a rapid connection from the West Midlands to the northern powerhouse, to Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds”.

Rail plan: Details of what the government is going to invest in are expected to be announced on Thursday when the long-delayed “integrated rail plan” is unveiled. It’s also expected to cancel the HS2 line from Birmingham to Leeds via Sheffield, while the Birmingham to Manchester section (which is much further advanced) goes ahead.

NPR cancelled: “Northern Powerhouse Rail isn’t being cut back – it’s being cancelled,” writes the Independent’s Jon Stone. Here’s the key passage from his analysis:

On Thursday the government is expected to finally release its much-delayed integrated rail plan spelling out what it will build. The latest reports are that there will be no new line from Manchester to Leeds in it. This is not just a case of more cut-backs: this line was the "bare minimum" of Northern Powerhouse Rail. If a new line between the north's two most important cities isn't in the plan, Northern Powerhouse Rail has not been cut back — it has been cancelled. The government is expected to instead announce upgrades to the existing transpennine route — and try to spin this as NPR after all.

Reaction: Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison told Place North West: “The suggestion that an upgrade of the current route across the Pennines is going to unlock the potential of the North as a productive and successful counterweight to London and the South East for the UK is misguided and, in economic terms, disastrous.” 

‘A fraud’: “This is Boris pulling the whole damn rug from under our feet and ripping up the floor behind him,” Naz Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, told the i newspaper. Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner reacted by saying:

In the North we know never to trust what the Tories say. We were first promised Northern Powerhouse Rail 7 years ago. Not a yard of track has been laid, and now it never will be. The Northern Powerhouse was a fraud and Boris Johnson is a con artist.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Work is continuing on the Integrated Rail Plan. We will publish it shortly and do not comment on speculation.”


Home of the week

This opulent house in Flixton has 10 double bedrooms and a generous garden but is in need of some updating on the inside. It’s on the market for £1.5 million.


Other local news in brief

  • Manchester City Council is facing a £153m budget shortfall over the next three years. A report said that while government funding for 2022/23 was "less bad" than anticipated, cuts in spending may still be required. Bev Craig, who is set to take over from Sir Richard Leese in December, said: "We find ourselves in a circumstance where a 'less bad' spending review is seen as positive amid the background of a decade of austerity.” Read more.

  • A 15-year-old boy has been found guilty of the murder of Reece Tansey from Bolton. Tansey, who was 15, died in May after being stabbed six times. “He was at an age where he was starting to find his way in life, and become his own person, but he always needed his mum and adored her and the rest of his family,” a family tribute said. Read more.

  • A “zero-carbon home” (nicknamed the “Z House”) has been built on the University of Salford’s main campus. It’s been part-funded by the government, with more than 40 organisations across the building, sustainability and technology sectors involved in its development. Read more.


🕵️‍♂️ Grist to The Mill: If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please email joshi@manchestermill.co.uk, jack@manchestermill.co.uk or dani@manchestermill.co.uk. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity. Get in touch.


Our to do list

🍷 Drink | The NQ wine club is being held at Noi Quattro on High Street this Sunday. The evening will include four wine tastings paired with four dishes prepared by Pasta Factory and Noi Quattro chefs, guided by Gary Newborough, a judge of the Italian Restaurant awards. Book here.

🌹 Display | There’s a lovely poppy display at Shawhead Drive in Failsworth, which has been created by husband and wife, Rob and Christine Martin. The display first first appeared in 2018 and it’s been going ever since. It’s on for two weeks, and you can donate what you feel. Proceeds will go towards British Legion and Help for Heroes.

🥘 Eat | If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced meal in a relaxed setting, Armenian Taverna and Restaurant on Princess Street is just the ticket. It serves authentic Armenian food, and won’t be too punishing on the pockets. Book here. 

🎄 Workshop | The Refuge on Oxford Road will be hosting a wreath-making workshop on Thursday, which will be run by in-house florists Giraffe Flowers. We know it’s still November, but if you’re the type of person who likes to be organised and don’t mind spending a bit of money, this is for you. Book here.

🎭 Theatre | “The Lemon Table” is now showing at HOME. It’s based on the novel by Julian Barnes, and it’s about an “obsessive concert goer” who goes to unusual lengths to enjoy the music. Tickets here.

🎶 Music | Electric Light Orcestra tribute band Explosive Light Orchestra will be performing in Oldham this weekend. Dance along to all the classic hits such as Mr Blue Sky, Livin' Things and Telephone Line. Tickets here.

🌍 Installation | Don’t forget, you can still catch the “Gaia” installation at Number One Riverside in Rochdale until 24th December. It’s a huge replica of the Earth and looks like it’s definitely worth a visit. Read more.


Our favourite reads

Colin Jones obituaryThe Observer

Colin Jones was a former ballet dancer who became a photojournalist. Some of his work was exhibited in “Myth of the North” at The Lowry in 2007. This letter from Bill Longshaw recalls working with Jones: “I remember how impressed he was by the Lowry galleries and how much he enjoyed seeing the changes in Manchester since he photographed the Who in the city in the 1960s, when it was still decidedly ‘grim up north’”

Return to the old NormalBig Issue North

Producer for the TV show The Royle Family Henry Normal discusses the challenges he faced early in his career, after moving to Manchester from a small Derbyshire town. “He found himself standing on a bustling Oxford Road, looking up at the imposing red brick buildings that surrounded him. ‘I was breathless for a second,’ he recalls. ‘I remember thinking, this is too big. I can’t live here. I’m too small. I can’t survive.’”

Netflix’s Flat “The Circle”The New Yorker

We enjoyed this New Yorker TV review of “The Circle”, a reality show filmed and produced in Salford. Contestants are locked in individual apartments, their communication restricted to a purpose-built social media platform. “‘The Circle,’” writes Naomi Fry, "had managed to predict the isolation brought on by the pandemic."

Once in a blue moonSports Illustrated

This oral history of Manchester City's 2012 Premier League win draws on the voices of players, journalists, equipment managers and groundskeepers to tell the story of one of the biggest upsets in UK football. "I still remember the silence [from the United fans] as the news started to filter through, in the weird way it does at a sporting event — people listening on radios, getting texts."


Photo of the week

A woman grass surfing behind a motorbike somewhere in Manchester, circa 1925. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.


Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: The case rate for Greater Manchester is 325.4, down 4.8% in a week compared to England’s 363, down 3.2%. Tameside has the highest infection rates in GM, around the 400-mark. Oldham has the lowest of about 300. We’re expecting the latest Covid-19 updates tomorrow, so we’ll share vaccinations and hospitalisations data with you when we get that.


Letters to the editor

Thanks for your piece. ('For the last few days I have had the gruesome job of burying the dead on the battlefield'.) A poignant reminder of the sacrifices many men made to ensure the peace of future generations. Emilie, Trafford

I really liked the fact that these two stories by Dani are from either end of the age divide (‘Fights usually come to you’). James' generation, which is mine too, didn't have to think about climate change when we were younger, I suppose in that respect we were innocents. James seems a thoroughly good human being, his purpose for a time was caring for his mother and he stepped up to the plate courageously. In Dani's second story those young people have also stepped up to care on a grander scale. It doesn't matter that they are either end of the age scale — they're just humans and rather grand ones at that. Anne, Midlands


That’s it — you’re all caught up