SERVING as the Member of Parliament for the City of Durham means that I must spend a great deal of my week travelling on our nation’s railways. As any regular rail traveller will know, train travel in the north of England is rarely as straightforward as it should be. Services can be infrequent, with delays and overcrowding all too common.

Undoubtedly these issues cause regular inconvenience for travellers, but they are a symptom of a much greater problem plaguing our economy: chronic underinvestment in our region’s infrastructure.

Put simply, the North East’s railways are at full capacity. In Durham, only six trains per hour can travel south on the East Coast Mainline due to the limits of a single-track line in each direction. County Durham deserves more and better rail services but to achieve this, and reverse decades of neglect, will require ambitious investment in several projects and improvements.

The Integrated Rail Plan, announced last week, should have been the start of a new chapter for the North East. After all, Boris Johnson’s Government has produced promise after promise and pledge after pledge that they would "level up" the North and revolutionise rail travel. The Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto stated in black and white that they would invest in Northern Powerhouse Rail and would reopen many lines which were closed by the 1960s Beeching Axe that decimated regional rail connectivity.

The Government’s decisions to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 and slash planned investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail were a kick in the teeth. Whatever you think of HS2, the reality is that where the Government had promised new railway lines, the North was simply offered another trail of broken promises.

The loss of planned major investments was hugely disappointing, but most disheartening was the Government’s decision to snub the proposed reopening of the mothballed Leamside Line.

This isn’t a party political issue either. This decision to abandon the Leamside proposals flies in the face of the political consensus amongst local civic leaders, MPs across the political spectrum, and regional businesses who have tirelessly presented the transformative impact reopening the line would have. It would create new capacity, improve local rail connectivity, and open the door to Metro expansion. Reopening this line would both increase capacity on the East Coast Mainline, and finally provide local services between County Durham, Washington and Pelaw.

Despite the transformative benefits this would bring, the Government has now twice snubbed this proposal in recent weeks, citing the relatively small £600m delivery cost as prohibitive.

People in Durham are entitled to be staggered that despite the Government recognising the clear economic and connectivity benefits this project would deliver, the North is apparently not worth the investment.

Make no mistake, while the support for this plan isn’t party political, the choice not to invest money in infrastructure where it is desperately needed is a political decision. The Conservatives are choosing to place a straitjacket on the North East economy, to ignore the pleas of businesses, councils and its own MPs, and to once again break its promises.

If railways are the arteries of our economy, then in the North East they are blocked, with the heartbeat of economic prosperity being increasingly choked by a lack of investment.