I absolutely accept that we need to improve the route between Manchester and Sheffield, and, indeed, we need to provide additional crossing points across the Pennines generally. That is why, in relation to the hon. Lady’s area, we have announced a £170 million package of improvements to the existing road link, including projects such as the Mottram moor link, to reduce congestion and improve safety and journey times. Construction on that will start next year. We are also going to smart-motorway the M62, and you will be aware, Mr Speaker, that we have started work on the dualling of the A66 further north. We are looking into ways to improve the links between east Lancashire and west Yorkshire and working with Transport for the North on the proposed trans-Pennine tunnel.
The Secretary of State’s confirmation of those projects is welcome, but fixing the strategic gap in economic productivity between Manchester and Sheffield will require a strategic road investment between the two cities, as Transport for the North has identified. Is the Secretary of State committing to prioritise that gap to unlock the potential £20 billion of economic productivity that could be unleashed?
I am clear that we need to deliver a much upgraded strategic road between Manchester and Sheffield—there is no doubt about that at all—as we do further north between east Lancashire and west Yorkshire, and further north still between Cumbria and Teesside, so I absolutely accept the hon. Lady’s point. She might, though, like to have a gentle word with her Front-Bench colleagues, who, of course, have committed to scrap the road improvement schemes that we have in the pipeline.
As someone whose constituency borders the city of Sheffield, I say to the Minister that we need to get economic productivity moving in our areas, as was outlined by Ruth George. Does he agree that, for communities such as Barrow Hill and Staveley, the Staveley bypass, which is 90 years in the asking, would be a great idea for Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire?
I know that my hon. Friend is seeking funding from the housing infrastructure fund for that scheme. I have been to the area and seen what is needed. I think that it is a very good scheme, and I hope that his application is successful. The reality is that, if we are to drive economic growth in the northern part of the country, we need road improvements. Those who argue against road improvements are letting down the north.
I declare an interest as a metro mayor. My hon. Friend Ruth George is absolutely right: the connectivity, both road and rail, between south Yorkshire and Greater Manchester is not fit for the 21st century. The 30 miles between Sheffield and Manchester is just about the longest 30 miles anywhere in England. It is good to hear from the Secretary of State that investment and work are taking place to address that, but does he agree that there is still more that we can do to improve that connectivity across the Pennines?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman: that route needs to improve; the M62 needs to improve; and the proposals for the trans-Pennine tunnel need to be taken forward. On rail, the Hope Valley line needs to be upgraded and then, of course, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the network that that will create, and the links that HS2 will bring, will be essential to unlocking the potential of Sheffield and the area around it.