Yorkshire's Labour MPs pile pressure on Government to devolve transport funding and powers
Labour MPs have added their voices to calls for the region to receive greater control over transport funding amid the ongoing backlash over the Government's decision to cancel long-awaited rail upgrades.
Writing to Secretary of State Chris Grayling, the group of Yorkshire and Humber MPs call on ministers to "empower the north" in order to allow local leaders to deliver a transport system "fit for the 21st century".
The letter follows an outpouring of anger in the region after the Government announced it was scrapping the delayed electrification of the London to Sheffield line and cast doubt on upgrades to the Transpennine route.
It also comes off the back of an article Mr Grayling wrote in this paper, in which he called for the North to "take control" and "[step] up to shape its own transport destiny".
Published ahead of a high-profile transport summit on Wednesday, the minister's comments only succeeded in sparking further outrage among local politicians, who accused the Government of passing the buck for its failures.
It also gave rise to inevitable calls for the Government to hand down "the powers and the resources" that would enable local authorities to meet his challenge.
This appeal has now been taken up by the MPs, as they write to Mr Grayling to demand an end to years of "warm words" and "broken promises" on transport investment.
They also call for a rethink of the abandoned electrification schemes and a fresh commitment to a high speed link between Leeds and Manchester.
" We recognise that investing in reliable, affordable transport is essential for delivering productivity and growth, rebalancing the economy and tackling climate change," the group writes.
"Let us be very clear - the North stands ready to sort out its own transport priorities, as you suggest. But we must have your support.
"We need the requisite powers and funding from central government, something you have resolutely refused to release from your grip.
"Instead of backing the north and its transport infrastructure you have presided over underfunding, broken promises and a scandalous north-south disparity in investment."
Citing Mr Gayling's Yorkshire Post article, they continue: "You made the point that the north of England would be among the 10th biggest economies in Europe if it were a separate nation.
"But we are not a separate nation and you hold the keys to unlocking our potential and our future.
"Mr Grayling, we need no more delays. No more broken promises. No more warm words.
"Give us the investment, give us devolution, empower the north and we will deliver transport fit for the 21st century."
The letter comes as a petition demanding an end to the funding gap between London and the North passes 84,000 signatures.
The IPPR North campaign, which calls for Â£59bn “catch-up cash” for the region, has gained more than 18,000 new supporters since the end of last week.
Responding to the MPs’ letter, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said the Government “remains 100 percent committed to delivering transport improvements across all areas of the country”.
“We are already investing over Â£13bn in the North of England’s transport infrastructure to deliver faster journeys and increased capacity. We are also developing options to deliver drastically improved journeys on the Transpennine route from 2022
“And we are committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail, as set out in the manifesto, that is why we have invested Â£60m for Transport for the North to take the development of the scheme forward.”
Full list of signatories for the letter:
Sir Kevin Barron MP - Chair of the Yorkshire & Humber Parliamentary Labour Group
Andy McDonald MP - Shadow Transport Secretary
Rachael Maskell MP – Shadow Transport Minister
Karl Turner MP- Shadow Transport Minister
Hilary Benn MP
Clive Betts MP
Paul Blomfield MP
Tracy Brabin MP
Richard Burgon MP
Sarah Champion MP
Yvette Cooper MP
Mary Creagh MP
Judith Cummins MP
Nic Dakin MP
Caroline Flint MP
Gill Furniss MP
John Grogan MP
Louise Haigh MP
Fabian Hamilton MP
Emma Hardy MP
John Healey MP
Imran Hussain MP
Dan Jarvis MP
Diana Johnson MP
Holly Lynch MP
Ed Miliband MP
Jared O’Mara MP
Melanie Onn MP
Stephanie Peacock MP
Rachel Reeves MP
Naz Shah MP
Barry Sheerman MP
Paula Sherriff MP
Angela Smith MP
Alex Sobel MP
Jon Trickett MP
Thelma Walker MP