Leaders gather in Leeds to send message patience has run out

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TRANSPORT IMPROVEMENTS in the North of England cannot wait any longer, a major summit in Leeds will be told today.

Council leaders from across the North will tell the Government they have run out of patience waiting for promises to improve services to be honoured.

Speakers at the summit will call on ministers to give a clear commitment to deliver a new high-speed rail network connecting the North’s major cities, known as Northern Powerhouse Rail or Crossrail North.

But council leaders will also call for measures which could bring about improvements much sooner, including the electrification of the existing railway connecting Leeds to Manchester.

The summit was called after the Government appeared to backtrack on previous commitments to electrify rail routes in the North while giving backing to a second Crossrail line in London.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “Over 15 million people live in the North, yet twelve times more money is set to be spent per head on transport infrastructure in London than in the north.

“Passengers have for years had to put up with slow and overcrowded trains with east-west journeys in the north taking twice as long as they do in the south.

“The people of the North are demanding a direct commitment from Government to increase investment in transport and to settle for any less would hold back the potential of the north for decades to come.”

The metro-mayors for the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester and leaders of Sheffield and Newcastle councils will be among those a the summit.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has today defended the Government’s record of investment in the North.

He said: “We are fully committed to our Northern transport programme, including Northern Powerhouse Rail. In fact we have given [Transport for the North] £60m to develop proposals for the scheme, and are working with them to strengthen the business case for the line.”

Mr Grayling said he wanted northern leaders “to come forward with fully costed proposals to improve journeys for transport users and provide value for taxpayers”.