Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, called the current transport planning approach "woefully weak" as he and Liverpool leader Mayor Joe Anderson laid out their priorities at a breakfast event on the opening morning of the Cannes convention.
The discussion between Bernstein and Anderson at the Manchester Villa focused on "unlocking the investment potential of Manchester and Liverpool". Improving connectivity was a repeated theme, alongside fiscal devolution, tax retention, and skills.
"The key to agglomeration is connectivity between cities," said Bernstein. "We currently have a 100-year outdated system. The national approach to transport planning is woefully weak, and there is a realisation that it is not delivering what is required."
Anderson agreed, and said: "You can't underestimate the connectivity issue."
The call for better east-west transportation systems formed part of a wider discussion on how to build on the gains in Greater Manchester's devolution deal. For Anderson, the next step was "proper fiscal devolution, giving us the ability to shape our own destinies."
"Around 90% of taxes in Manchester and Liverpool are taken away from us, and then we need to beg to get it back," Anderson said.
While Bernstein acknowledged that Anderson was right in calling for fiscal control, he warned that "fiscal devolution will not happen overnight, but fiscal retention is the first step. We can still achieve a lot in the short term."
With Greater Manchester leading the way in terms of historic devolution agreements, including recently getting control of a £6bn NHS budget, Anderson admitted that Liverpool was affected by its lack of political unity. "Without a doubt Liverpool lags behind. Greater Manchester's success shows that a joined-up approach works. Of course I'm jealous! I'm frustrated by the lack of vision and collaboration, but that's what happens with parochialism."
With general and local elections due in May, Bernstein asked businesses to put pressure on politicians over their plans for more devolved powers.
"Over the next couple of months there will be no shortage of opportunities for businesses, with political representatives from all parties asking for support in the run up to the election.
"Businesses need to challenge those representatives on what they'll do in the first 100 days in regard to devolution. When political parties talk about rebalancing the economy, what practically is actually going to happen? Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds need to be at the centre of that process."