Leaders demand Northern Budget to back transport
Leaders from across the North have called on the Government to commit to a dedicated Northern Budget, to support better transport infrastructure and deliver on commitments previously promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.
The call, backed by the councils which make up Transport for the North’s board, comes days after recently-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced a fast-tracked spending round for Government departments for the next year.
Northern leaders are calling for a commitment to three core “asks” for the North, “to get the bare essentials in better transport infrastructure in the short, medium and long-term”.
It includes a commitment to a £7bn Northern infrastructure pipeline, featuring road and rail projects which could start in the next five years and “have the potential to transform connectivity in the short-term”.
In July, Boris Johnson’s promised to fund Northern Powerhouse Rail, the long-awaited high-speed rail route between Manchester and Leeds.
At the time, Johnson said: “I want to be the Prime Minister who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did for Crossrail in London”. Further details on Northern Powerhouse Rail are due to feature in autumn’s Government Spending Review.
The latest set of asks call on the Government to consider short and long-term commitments to the North, at both this year’s fiscal event and the longer-term review of infrastructure expected in 2020.
The Northern councils have called for commitment to a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline, confirmation of commitment to build the full £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail network by 2040, and a dedicated £1bn for Transport for the North over the next three years.
There have been copious attempts to pressure Government to commit funding to Northern transport, particularly rail, including in April this year when a group of more than 80 MPs attempted to petition then-Chancellor Philip Hammond to commit money to Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: “The North is now at the top of the national political agenda, with promises to balance out the UK’s economy and unleash our potential by better connecting our towns and cities. We now need a Northern Budget to make both the shovel-ready projects and the ambitious longer-term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.
“Closing the productivity gap between North and South is essential if we’re to compete on a global stage – but the North’s constrained by creaking infrastructure.
“These are the minimum requirements needed to overturn the underinvestment, under different Governments, stretching back decades. It’ll ensure the North becomes greater than the sum of its parts and will get the UK firing on all cylinders.
“Whilst the Government is planning for a one-year spending round for its departments against a Brexit backdrop, there is no reason why we can’t see real commitment and recognition of the ambitious pipeline of infrastructure investments the North so badly needs.”