Labour says government claim to be reversing Beeching rail cuts 'meaningless' – live news

Boris Johnson and his ministers want to improve regional connectivity, in particular rail travel in the north of England, and today Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is announcing outline proposals to reopen two rail lines: the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne Line in Northumberland, and the the Fleetwood line in Lancashire. As with the government plans for “40 new hospitals”, there is no firm commitment to go ahead with the work; just a seed funding commitment to explore the idea. My colleague Gwyn Topham’s story about the plan is here.

As a relatively minor transport announcement, that’s fine, but Shapps is facing criticism today because he is presenting this as part of a plan, first announced during the general election campaign, to reverse the 1960s Beeching cuts that closed more than 4,000 miles of track and more than 2,000 stations (in the era when mass car ownership was taking off, making rail less competitive). Shapps first floated this idea during the general election campaign.

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

Today we’ve announced a £500m Beeching Reversal Fund to start re-opening rail lines axed under Harold Wilson’s govt. Ultimately this saw 5,000 miles of rail & 2,363 stations closed. Our plan will help re-connect towns & villages to the rail network

November 15, 2019

In a highly crowded field, this was seen as one of the most misleading tweets of the general election, because it implied that the Beeching cuts might to totally or largely reversed, when in fact £500m would only pay for a few miles of new track. The government is still giving that impression today. The press release from the Department for Transport says Shapps is making an announcement that “will that will drive forward the reversal of the controversial Beeching cuts”.

Labour says today’s promise is “meaningless” without much more substantial investment. In a statement Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said:

The funding pledged by the government would reopen just 25 miles of railway.

The Conservatives claim to have been reversing Beeching cuts since 2017 despite not reopening an inch of track.

Investing in the railway is a fantastic policy but this is meaningless without a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds.

The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern rail franchise.

Later we will get a much more significant investment announcement from the government – the decision about Huawei.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Boris Johnson chairs a meeting of the national security council to decide whether Huawei will be allowed a role in building the UK’s 5G infrastructure.

10am: The migration advisory committee publishes a report on how an Australian-style points-based immigration system could work in the UK.

11.30am: Matt Hancock, the health secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

Afternoon: Ministers are due to make oral statements in parliament about the Huawei decision. Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, is expected to make the statement in the Lords, but it is not clear yet who will address the Commons.

2.45pm: Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, chairs a meeting of the joint ministerial committee, which includes ministers from the devolved administrations, in Cardiff to discuss Brexit.

3.35pm: Lord Berkely, former deputy chair of the Oakervee review of HS2, gives evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee.

As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary when I wrap up.

You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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