A plea to Ministers by the North's strategic transport body to deliver a 'Northern budget' to invest in transport improvements "does not go nearly far enough for long-suffering Northern commuters and passengers", it was claimed today.
Transport for the North has urged the Government to deliver on commitments previously promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda with measures including a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline project.
But the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which represents civic and business leaders, has argued that the request is not ambitious enough and did not go as far as the £120bn in funding which Parliamentarians from the North said was needed by 2050 to pay for major schemes and local investment.
Director Henri Murison said: “I’m concerned that the Northern Budget Transport for the North are calling for does not go nearly far enough for long-suffering Northern commuters and passengers."
One of the three 'core' requests by TfN, which brings together northern leaders to make strategic decisions about transport for the coming decades, is an infrastructure 'pipeline' featuring road and rail projects which could start in the next five years.
Members of the TfN board including Leeds city council leader Judith Blake and City of York's Keith Aspden have also called for a commitment to build the full £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail network connecting the great cities of the North by 2040. And they urged the Government to commit to £1bn over the next three years to TfN to deliver on its vision.
Barry White, the chief executive of TfN, said: “We need a Northern Budget to make both the shovel-ready projects and the ambitious longer-term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.
“Closing the gap between North and South is essential if we’re to compete on a global stage – but the North’s constrained by creaking infrastructure.
“These are the minimum requirements needed to overturn the under-investment, under different governments, stretching back decades.
“It’ll ensure the North becomes greater than the sum of its parts and will get the UK firing on all cylinders.”
But Mr Murison said: “Improving transport across the North - including the new Northern Powerhouse Rail line between Leeds and Manchester through Bradford city centre and its wider network – is vitally important.
"However, as the National Infrastructure Assessment recommended, within the target of 1.2 per cent of GDP spend on infrastructure the UK can also afford both HS2 and better transport within city regions like North East, Leeds and Bradford with their neighbouring towns. There seems to be little or no reference to this in TfN’s priorities.
“We need further mayors elected and significant devolved budgets to city regions to pay for improvements as the Prime Minister, our metro mayors and others have argued for throughout the summer – as well as a proper solution at Manchester Piccadilly and at Stourton junction – to make Northern Powerhouse Rail the right scheme, not a result of Whitehall penny pinching.
"There is limited economic benefit in better transport across the North if within our cities people grind to a halt.”
On Saturday, The Yorkshire Post reported that the arrival of high speed rail in the North could be delayed because of a dispute over whether a £6bn underground station should be built in Manchester.
Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham has refused to support plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail because it includes a surface extension to Piccadilly station to accommodate high speed rail rather than an underground station.
TfN, which is submitting the plans to the government, says a six-platform, 400 metre station above ground that can accommodate NPR and the HS2 high speed line from London would deliver the same benefits as an underground site for the fraction of the cost.