Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram joined with leaders from Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield for a transport summit aimed at forcing improved trans-northern rail links to the top of the government’s agenda.
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. 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.”
Rotheram added: “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.”
The summit follows immediately a call from former Chancellor George Osborne for government to resurrect the plans for high-speed trans-Pennine rail services included in his last Budget – writing in the Financial Times, Osborne suggested that the upcoming Conservative party conference in Manchester might make a fitting location for Theresa May to relaunch her ailing premiership.
Since Transport Secretary Chris Grayling called into question northern rail investment in July, a petition urging full support for the project variously billed as Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS3 and Crossrail for the North has garnered 70,000 signatures, while a letter was this week sent to May and Chancellor Philip Hammond from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
Organisations signing the letter included Manchester Airports Group, Mace, Arcadis, Arup, Addleshaw Goddard, HSBC and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby, who sits on the board of the partnership, said: “Investment in rail improvements in the North is an economic imperative not simply for the North but the UK as a whole.
“Connecting the cities properly into a single economy with a large talented labour market will help them compete effectively on the global stage, working to their collective strengths and delivering more overall. For us this is all part of making our great city regions even greater.”