Transport Secretary Chris Grayling met with Yorkshire council leaders yesterday to discuss the future of major rail projects in the region amid mounting anger over his failure to attend a Commons debate on the subject.
Mr Grayling has been accused of showing “contempt for the North” after he sent a junior Minister to face questions from a backbench debate, where MPs called for a more ambitious strategy for road and rail links.
Department for Transport (DfT) officials insisted the decision was not a snub, adding: “As Minister for Local Transport, it is right that Jesse Norman responded to this debate for the Government”.
They declined to reveal where Mr Grayling was as the debate took place, but said that yesterday he was “meeting with leaders from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to discuss the future of transport in the region”.
An opinion piece in the Transport Secretary’s name also featured in yesterday’s edition of London’s Evening Standard newspaper, criticising the RMT trade union over the latest industrial action to affect the capital’s rail network.
During the Commons debate on Monday, MPs from across the House lined up to condemn the historic lack of investment in Yorkshire’s infrastructure and express concern about recent revelations about the Government’s plans for Transport for the North (TfN).
They also expressed “disappointment” at the decision to send a junior Minister in Mr Grayling’s place, with one senior Labour MP describing it as a sign that the Government had given up on efforts to provide leadership.
Hull North MP Diana Johnson told Mr Norman that Transport for the North has to develop plans for the whole region with just £10m more than Transport for London spent on advertising in 2008.
A DfT spokeswoman said yesterday: “We are carrying out the biggest investment in transport in the north of England for a generation.”