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Northern leaders meet in Leeds to demand fair transport cash settlement

Leaders in the north are today joining together at a transport summit in Leeds to once again call for better transport investment.

The summit, opened today by Leeds City Council leader Cllr Judith Blake, is being attended by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram and delegates from councils across the north.

It comes a day after former chancellor George Osborne made a similar call, arguing in the Financial Times that HS2 redesigns needed to include plans for HS3 connectivity and that transport in the north is in desperate need of extra government cash.

The summit also comes at a tumultuous time for the DfT, with northern leaders reacting angrily to transport secretary Chris Grayling publicly backing Crossrail 2 just a week after pulling the plug on three key electrification projects in the north of England.

Opening the conference, Cllr Blake argued that transforming rail connections across the north was part of the original plan to create a Northern Powerhouse and is 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,” she said.

Mayor Burnham also claimed that the patience of people in the north of England has run out, with the region now getting organised and demanding that the government keep its promises of delivering a fair funding deal for the region.

Leader of Sheffield City Council Cllr Julie Dore also stated: “Faster and more frequent rail services across the north are absolutely vital in order for our local and regional economy to grow, and also for giving people a transport system that is fit for purpose.

“It is clearly unacceptable that people living in the north still cannot quickly and easily commute between our towns and cities – all while billions of pounds is being poured into further improvements for transport links in London.”

Cllr Dore warned that the DfT’s attempts to drop or water down some key improvements have thrown its entire commitment into question.

“It is crucial that they commit to making an integrated transport network across the whole of the north and especially a commitment to a Northern Powerhouse Rail,” she continued.

“However, it is just as important that the government recommits to the upgrades that will make a difference now – for example, changing their decision to cancel the electrification of the Midland Main Line.”

Grayling: Success of northern transport depends on north itself

But writing in the Yorkshire Post this week, Grayling argued that while it is true that poor transport is holding the north back, it was down to the north’s leaders to take control.

“The message I want to send them is simply this: although one of my biggest priorities as secretary of state is to build the transport links the north needs to thrive, they must be designed and managed by the north itself,” he wrote. 

“It is central government’s responsibility to provide funding and a delivery structure that ensures efficiency, value for money and accountability.

“But beyond this, I want the north to take control. Unprecedented investment is already in place. We are spending £13bn on northern transport in this Parliament – the largest in government history.”

Grayling also claimed that DfT is fully committed to the northern transport programme, including Northern Powerhouse Rail – with Transport for the North (TfN) having been given £60m to develop proposals for the scheme.

“It’s exactly the same as the way we’re working with TfL on Crossrail 2,” he added. “The only difference between the two schemes is that Crossrail 2 has been nine years in the making, while we started planning Northern Powerhouse Rail in 2013.

“I have been absolutely clear that sometimes we may have to adapt plans when evolving technology provides us with new options.

“The success of northern transport depends on the north itself – on TfN, businesses, mayors and devolved authorities, and on local communities,” the transport secretary concluded. “They understand the north’s transport problems better than anyone, and with their knowledge, we can fix them.”

Top Image: SAKhanPhotography

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Paul   23/08/2017 at 14:15

Well, Liverpool and Manchester have their newly elected mayors and what do the cities on the East of the Pennines have? A mess. Only recently Yorkshire has decided to explore a county wide mayor causing a split now between them and South Yorkshire. Only elected mayors on equal footing can negotiate with government. If the government is to commit funds they need to know who is responsible for turning those projects into reality. Geographically Yorkshire has most to gain (or lose) so they need to pull their finger out

Jimbo   24/08/2017 at 09:57

I hate to say, but I agree with Grayling here. Northern leaders want their proposals fully agreed before they put together the detailed plans, but that isn't the way it happens. No-one is going to commit to billion pound projects without having a fully developed and costed plan. Create the full plans and then you can discuss getting the money. This is what TfL did with Crossrail2, so get on with creating your plans and stop whining about lack of investment. These politicians know how the system works, they know what they need to do, but instead, they are playing politics. In doing so, either disingenious or dishonest with their electorate.

John Webster   25/08/2017 at 21:07

As Grayling has pointed out, our new mayors and other council leaders are shouting before planning! What they should be doing is examining the feasibility of combining HS2 with HS3 instead of treating each as separate projects. The present design for HS2 includes a terminus at Piccadiily - WRONG - this should be designed as a through station so as to accommodate HS3 trains from Liverpool. Also, HS2 should include a south to west connection so that it could serve Liverpool. This could then be the fore-runner of HS3 from Merseyside to Greater Manchester with a triangular junction as initially planned when a Carriage Maintenance Depot was to be built north of Golborne - something that one nimby politician objected too before being elected mayor!

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