A cross party group of politicians, including senior Tory party grandees, have today taken the unprecedented step of coming together to urge the Chancellor Philip Hammond to commit £100 billion to transform the north’s rail and road network to prevent future generations enduring the misery faced by today’s commuters.
Former deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine, former transport minister Robert Goodwill and ex-whip Sir Greg Knight, are part of a group of more than 80 MPs and peers to press for extra investment for the North’s infrastructure to bring it in line with the rest of the country and help bolster the national economy.
In a letter to the chancellor, seen by the The Yorkshire Post, the politicians urge him to use the forthcoming Budget to commit £24 billion of funding for the high-speed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) scheme to link the East and West of the country, and to bring forward the target completion date to coincide with the planned arrival of the HS2 line to Leeds and Manchester in 2032.
The MPs also call for a commitment to increase funding for major road and rail projects in the region to £100 billion by 2050.
Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake, the co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse all-party parliamentary group and author of the letter, said the extra investment could see the next generation enjoy opportunities across the region which are “currently beyond young people today”.
Critics have highlighted the amount spent on transport in the South East compared with the North and the letter urged the Chancellor to allocate funding for NPR so it can proceed at the same time as the Crossrail 2 scheme in London.
The letter is published on the same day that embattled Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is due to visit the region following weeks of heavy criticism for his handling of the rail timetable fiasco which has blighted the North and caused an estimated £38m loss to the UK’s economy.
Mr Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said: “We are now at a critical point - Northern Powerhouse Rail has the potential not simply to improve rail travel for commuters and families but to deliver economic growth right across the North, not simply in the core cities.
“Bringing forward the delivery date of NPR to the same time as HS2 arrives in the North could see the coming generation enjoy further education and job opportunities currently beyond young people today, and stimulate significant growth for the whole of the UK.”
Labour former minister Caroline Flint, a co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group, said: “It is simply not good enough and needs urgent action to address the North’s outdated transport network.
“Investing up to £100 billion in improving roads and rail is a must-have for the people of the North.”
Lord Jim O’Neill, Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “As someone attracted to spend some time as a Minister because of the focus on the Northern Powerhouse, and being involved in the setting up of Transport for the North, getting a true state-of-the-art transport network is absolutely key.
“Affordable and quick trains connecting all key parts of the Powerhouse, are vital to delivering on the goal of raising productivity both across the North, and with it, the country as a whole.”
In a seperate development, new research has shown that transport funding for the North fell across the North while it rose in London.
Data from the IPPR North think tank showed that over the last year, transport spending in London increased by 11.4 per cent.
In contrast, it fell by 3.6 per cent in the North of England. It also claims the North received £289 per head on transport, while London received £708 per head on average over the last 10 years.
The think tank also claims if the North had received the same amount per head public spending on transport as London for the last 10 years, it would have had an investment of £63 billion more.