Northern leaders unite to demand fair deal on transport from government

Political and business leaders from across major northern cities are meeting for the first time in Leeds today to demand a fair deal on transport from the government.

The unprecedented gathering comes following widespread confusion and anger after the transport secretary appeared to cast doubt over long promised improvements to northern railways.

Since Chris Grayling made his announcement, around 70,000 people have signed an IPPR petition calling on the government to immediately commit to East to West Crossrail for the North, also known as HS3 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and to billions of pounds of ‘catch-up cash’ for Northern transport infrastructure.

Today’s Northern Transport Summit comes a day after civic leaders, businesses and former chancellor George Osborne called on the government to back East to West Northern Powerhouse Rail, connecting the cities of the North, in Autumn’s budget. In a letter to the prime minister, business and civic leaders said that the investment in northern transport is ‘not only fundamental to the success of the Northern Powerhouse, it is fundamental to the success of the entire country.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Today’s event shows that the patience of people in the North of England has run out. We are getting organised and demanding the government keeps all of its promises to people here and delivers a fair funding deal for the north of England. We are not against our capital city developing world class infrastructure but it cannot be at the expense of the north. People here have put up with clapped out trains and congested roads for long enough.

“The fact we have such strong private sector support at this event shows that this not about party politics but civic and business leaders uniting to get fair deal for the north. The government needs to show it is serious about rebalancing and revitalising our economy. We need to see clear prioritisation and a timetable for Crossrail for the north from the government as well as other vital transport improvements going ahead as soon as possible.”

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Northern transport has suffered from underinvestment relative to London and the south east for decades. The government has acknowledged that improved transport links between our great northern cities, as well as HS2, is fundamentally important to unlocking the full potential of the north of England, supporting jobs and growth which will be even more vital in a post-Brexit landscape. As northern leaders we will keep up the pressure for a fair deal for the region.”

Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake said: “Over 15 million people live in the north, yet 12 times more money is set to be spent per head on transport infrastructure in London than in the north. Passengers have for years had to put up with slow and overcrowded trains with east-west journeys in the north taking twice as long as they do in the south.

“Transforming rail connections across the north was part of the original plan to create a Northern Powerhouse and was estimated to bring £100bn in economic growth as well as 850,000 new jobs. The people of the north are demanding a direct commitment from government to increase investment in transport and to settle for any less would hold back the potential of the north for decades to come.”

Metro mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram commented: “We are already in a situation where for every £1 spent on infrastructure projects in the North, £6 is spent in London and the south east. This is clearly not equitable, and neither does it make economic sense. Only by redressing this enormous imbalance in investment can we ever hope to create a balanced, resilient and successful economy. We need to see that projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail as are not simply for or about the north. They are vital national investments that will benefit the whole of the UK.”

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, Liverpool city region mayor Steve Rotheram, and the leaders of Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester councils all attended the summit in Leeds. Alongside the political leaders, the summit also brought together a range of business groups including Downtown in Business, the Northern Business Improvement Districts, Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Business and the Institute of Directors.

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