Yorkshire leaders are in line to share an £840m government fund to improve the vital transport links between its cities and towns, the Prime Minister revealed tonight.
Theresa May paid tribute to the “industry and innovation” of the region as she revealed that its two combined authorities had been shortlisted to bid for a share of the Transforming Cities Fund.
She said the funding would help “spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs”. If Sheffield City Region and West Yorkshire leaders are successful, the money will be used to make it quicker and easier to get between major cities and nearby towns and suburbs.
A leading business group said last night that despite the promise of £2.9 billion being spent on trans-Pennine rail links, many people in Yorkshire could still lose out because they were unable to access mainline railway stations.
Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “Many of Yorkshire’s towns and communities with a large number of people struggling to make ends meet are in close proximity to the greatest concentrations of higher-skilled, higher-paid jobs in cities. However, they cannot reach them as easily as they should, never mind how easily they could in London or many other parts of Europe.”
Announced last year by Chancellor Philip Hammond, the fund totals £1.7bn but half of this is earmarked for areas like Manchester, Liverpool and the Tees Valley which have fully implemented devolution deals.
Yorkshire leaders, who have yet to agree a deal to transfer powers from Whitehall to the region, were forced to compete with other authorities for the remainder of the fund.
Number 10 announced last night that the Sheffield City Region and West Yorkshire combined authorities had been shortlisted to share the £840 million fund and would receive £50,000 each to develop their bids in the next 12 months.
Projects that could be included in the final schemes include developing smart technology to integrate bus, rail and cycling information. And while officials work with government on their plans, £60 million from the fund will be made available over the next year to share across transport schemes.
Authorities in Derby and Nottingham, Leicester, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent will also bid.
Mrs May said: “Right at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse, Yorkshire’s cities are renowned across the country for their industry and innovation.
“And we’re continuing to back communities across Yorkshire to maximise their potential for growth, with over £1 billion committed to the Great North Rail project and £106 million spent on improvements to the M1 around Sheffield.”
The announcement comes after criticism of the lack of government funding committed to improving transport infrastructure in the North, compared with London’s total.
Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said the hoped-for funding would connect key sites such as Sheffield city centre, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District and Doncaster Sheffield Airport adding £21bn to the national economy by 2040.
He said: “It is critical that we improve the transport system in our region, to create better access to major employment sites, reduce congestion and better integrate different modes of transport.”
The chairman of the body which advises the Government on infrastructure has urged Ministers to go even further by devolving even more powers and funding to local leaders.
Sir John Armitt of the National Infrastructure Commission, said the need to tackle congestion “makes cities a top...priority”.
He added: “The Transforming Cities Fund has been a great first step, and I would now urge Ministers to go further and devolve even greater powers and funding to local leaders. That will enable them to devise longer term plans for transport, but also to boost employment opportunities and deliver much needed homes.”