THERE are positives in the Government’s railway announcement – faster travel times and earlier delivery times – but it is disappointing that aspirations have been so scaled back, especially after the Prime Minister himself led the way in promising so much.

It now looks as if expensive high speed rail is only worth building in the south and the north has to make do with piecemeal improvements.

Those piecemeal projects, which should have happened years ago had not Crossrail in London been given most of the transport budget, will leave us with a better network, but once – with the eastern leg of HS2 and the full Northern Powerhouse Rail – there was a grand ambition to have fast railways sweeping from Hull to Liverpool, from London to Birmingham to Newcastle.

For the last decade or more, practically all council leaders and business groups have been signed up to that ambition with places like Bradford having it central to their regeneration. You can understand why the word “betrayal” is being banded about.

The south must wonder whether there was any point in the environmental damage HS2 has wrought if it is going to stop halfway, and our region is to be left with Victorian infrastructure operating at the maximum of its potential and with no future chance of being connected to the latest high speed technology. For the North East, the railway plans are not about shaving 17 minutes off a journey to King’s Cross, they are about increasing capacity so more trains can run to more places carrying freight as well as passengers and, most importantly, to do so affordably.

This really is a sad story of ambitions scaled down and levelling up pegged back.