I am going to leave Brexit alone this week except to say I haven’t changed my view that Theresa May’s game is to run the clock down, rely on a last-minute concession by the EU and get her deal over the line. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn also wants to leave the EU, without being responsible for the “Tory Deal” damage that will ensue.

Tory and Labour Remainer MPs are being played for dupes, their strategy is confused and their agonising embarrassing; as is the continued speculation about a breakaway centre party. If it is to have any credibility, it won’t derive from London cocktail parties where they come up with the idea of JK Rowling becoming leader.


I did some work facilitating meetings of the talented rail engineers planning this massive scheme and shared their enthusiasm for it. It was a huge mistake to associate it with high speed when the real justification is that the West Coast mainline is at capacity for passenger and freight. However, Britain was at last going to match the French and Japanese in fast rail.

I would still like HS2 to go ahead but the daily misery being faced by passengers commuting in the North of England has forced me to conclude that the government may need to pause HS2 to invest massively on rail in the North. I don’t just mean connecting the big cities with Northern Powerhouse Rail but doing something about the chaos on lines between places like Flixton to Urmston highlighted on TV this week.

Transport for The North’s investment plan, recently revealed, should get urgent approval from however is going to replace the hapless Chris Grayling when he is removed as Secretary of State for Transport.

As I say I would like both projects to go forward, but the benefits of HS2 won’t be seen in the North until the 2030’s, whilst urgent investment in local rail would see improvements much sooner.

I acknowledge the improvements now coming on the Preston to Manchester link, but progress has been slow and the investment programme across the North needs a rocket boost to investment.

It is not acceptable for a heavily pregnant woman to have to miss three trains because of overcrowding on short formed services


Again, I must begin with a transparency notice, I have done webcast work for Lancashire fracking firm Cuadrilla.

I have found the government’s response to developments in the nuclear and gas industries in recent weeks very interesting.

The collapse of plans for three nuclear power plants because of the withdrawal of Japanese investment did not send ministers into tailspin.

Justified demands by Cuadrilla for the lifting of earth tremor restrictions at their Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire have been refused along with permission to drill at all at nearby Roseacre Wood.

Meanwhile the cost of renewable energy is plummeting. It suggests the government are pivoting to green energy solutions and it could mean difficult times for our nuclear and fracking companies.

Follow me @JimHancockUK






The nuclear industry is a vital part of the northern economy, but recent events have cast a shadow over its future.


The vote by Cumbria County Council to reject deep storage of nuclear waste and the decision of Centrica to abandon plans to build new reactors in the UK raises major questions for an industry that the North has great expertise in.


From the hi tech skills being taught at UCLAN and Manchester University’s Dalton Institute to the “difficult” end of dealing with the waste legacy at Sellafield, from the uranium enrichment plant run by URENCO at Capenhurst to a string of supply chain companies across the North, we are looking at a major industrial asset.


There are two major issues. The need to build a new generation of nuclear power stations to avoid a UK energy gap in the 2020s and a solution to the long term disposal of radioactive waste.


On the latter issue, the government’s reaction to the decision by Cumbria Council to pull out of the exploration of underground sites seemed remarkably casual. Ministerial reaction was to say the search goes on as if there are a queue of other local authorities across England waiting to host the toxic legacy of 60 years of nuclear power generation.


The fact is that Cumbria is the only county in the country where there is the remotest prospect of building a consensus to locate a deep storage facility for nuclear waste. Actually that conclusion needs refining. It is only in West Cumbria, around Sellafield, that there may be public support. Copeland District Council voted to continue exploration and there is talk of them now going it alone.


It would require a change in the law as Cumbria County Council is the superior planning authority, but in the national interest this should be explored.


Cumbria councillors are facing elections in a couple of months. That brought its own pressures, along with a strategy by some anti nuclear campaigners to “scare the crap out of them”. But the vote still leaves the nuclear waste in place.


Now the government should concentrate on exploring for a site in West Cumbria so that this part of the work of the nuclear industry in the north can regain momentum and they should give Copeland Council the guarantee that they could pull out of the project at a late stage. Cumbria councillors claim they were not reassured on this point.


Now we come to the other issue which has implications across the economy of the north. After years of burying its head in the sand the Blair government acknowledged that we would need a new generation of nuclear power stations. This was good news for the North and Manchester University was quick to spot the opportunity to start training a new generation of nuclear engineers.


But forward momentum has been slow, partly because of the balance of risk to be taken by the private and public sector and the agreed price for electricity generation from the power stations.


Centrica’s decision to withdraw means no major UK company remains involved in plans for new nuclear reactors in England. The government point to Hitachi’s purchase of the relatively new UK nuclear power company, Horizon, as evidence of confidence in the UK nuclear industry by the Japanese.


For the sake of jobs in the north, we need rapid progress on plans for nuclear power stations and deep storage.