Halifax MP and Yorkshire's colleagues pile pressure on Government to devolve transport funding and powers

Labour MPs including Halifax' Holly Lynch 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.

Friday, 25th August 2017, 10:41 am
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:42 pm
Labour's Halifax MP Holly Lynch

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 Mr Grayling of passing the buck for the Government's failures.

It also gave rise to inevitable calls for ministers to hand local authorities "the powers and the resources" they would need 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.

" 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 article in the Halifax Courier's sister newspaper, The Yorkshire Post, 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 £59bn “catch-up cash” for the region, has gained more than 18,000 new supporters since the end of last week.

Commenting on the letter, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, who is one of the signatories, told this paper that people in Yorkshire “are justifiably angry” at the situation.

"Chris Grayling seems to think his responsibilities as Transport Secretary end at the Watford Gap," he said.

"The North of England isn’t asking for special treatment, only that it receives comparable levels of investment to London and the South East – an unlikely prospect with Mr Grayling holding the purse strings."

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 £13bn in the north of England’s transport infrastructure, including on roads and railways, to deliver faster journeys and increased capacity," they said.

"We are also developing options to deliver drastically improved journeys on the Transpennine route from 2022. That work will continue apace and is a key priority for the Department for Transport.

“We are committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail, as set out in the manifesto, and that is why we have invested £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 GroupAndy McDonald MP - Shadow Transport SecretaryRachael Maskell MP – Shadow Transport MinisterKarl Turner MP- Shadow Transport MinisterHilary Benn MPClive Betts MPPaul Blomfield MPTracy Brabin MPRichard Burgon MPSarah Champion MPYvette Cooper MPMary Creagh MPJudith Cummins MPNic Dakin MPCaroline Flint MPGill Furniss MPJohn Grogan MPLouise Haigh MPFabian Hamilton MPEmma Hardy MPJohn Healey MPImran Hussain MPDan Jarvis MPDiana Johnson MPHolly Lynch MPEd Miliband MPJared O’Mara MPMelanie Onn MPStephanie Peacock MPRachel Reeves MPNaz Shah MPBarry Sheerman MPPaula Sherriff MPAngela Smith MPAlex Sobel MPJon Trickett MPThelma Walker MP