Labour leaders from across the north team up to fight Tory transport betrayals

23rd August, 2017 4:08 pm

Six key Labour leaders in the north of England have come together to set up a new body to speak up for the region in the wake of several Tory transport betrayals.

The Labour council leaders and metro mayors met today to discuss the u-turn by transport secretary Chris Grayling over the Crossrail scheme for the Northern Powerhouse project. The group agreed to form a “Council of the North” to lobby Whitehall for spending on infrastructure.

The local politicians said the north is being “held back by an outdated, expensive and slow transport system” and have released a list of demands for the government, including delivering on rail electrification and distributing infrastructure spending more equitably across the country and East-West Crossrail.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Today’s unprecedented gathering of northern political and business leaders sends a clear message: the north is getting organised and ready to get its voice heard more loudly than ever before.

“It is time now for the north to pool its political influence and show a real willingness to use it, like London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been doing in recent times. Westminster has failed the North of England but in the past we have struggled to speak with one clear voice on its unfair decisions. With the change in the parliamentary arithmetic, we have a chance to win more support for our cause.”

The group also contains Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool city region, Richard Leese, leader of the City of Manchester, Julie Dore from Sheffield, Judith Blake, Leeds and Nick Forbes, Newcastle. 

“A successful north means more jobs, a stronger tax base, better inward investment opportunities and greater success for business for the whole of the UK. But none of this will be realised unless there is substantial new investment in modern transport infrastructure linking the great cities of the north,” they said.

“Recent statements by the transport secretary have sent worrying messages that this essential investment may not be delivered in full, with some key commitments dropped, or substantially delayed. We believe that people across the north have waited long enough for transport services on a par with other parts of the country. The disparity between transport in the north of England and London must now be addressed.”

They set out a series of demands from government, including to:

  • honour “in full” commitments to improve rail services across the north, including full electrification, as well as on track, signalling and stations improvements.
  • prioritise Tory manifesto commitment to deliver new west-east rail infrastructure reaching across the North and use the Budget to set out a “clear timetable” for delivery.
  • set out a “fairer” distribution of transport funding – road and rail, revenue and capital – across all regions of the country.

The council leaders also pledged to work with MPs.

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