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Government transport pledge for Northern Powerhouse falls short of expectations

Chancellor Philip Hammond addresses the Conservative Party conference. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

By Alex Smith

A PLEDGE to invest an extra £400 million into northern transport networks does not go far enough, according to two senior Yorkshire politicians.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the cash boost to improve rail and road links as part of the Northern Powerhouse project when he spoke at the Conservative Party conference on October 2.

In a statement about the announcement, a Treasury spokesperson said: “More than £100 million will go towards local road schemes to bust congestion pinch-points and speed up journeys.

“The extra £300 million will go towards ensuring HS2 infrastructure can accommodate future Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Connect services.”

But Labour Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning on Leeds City Council, said he was sceptical that the government was committed to addressing the years of north-south funding imbalance.

He said while he was positive about the pledge overall, and its potential to help economic growth in the north, he had concerns: “The announcement by Philip Hammond this week falls short of what is needed to reverse years of under-investment in the north.

“As the UK looks to its post-Brexit future, it is clearer than ever that northern prosperity is national prosperity.”

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central, voiced similar concerns. He reiterated his support for HS2 and welcomed any further investment.

But he also criticised other government decisions regarding transport infrastructure, specifically the decision not to electrify several major train routes, including the Leeds to Manchester line.

He believed that although the HS2 project was vital, more investment was needed in east-west travel between northern cities to encourage commuters to choose the train over their car.

He said: “Good railway infrastructure is going to encourage more people to use it, and we need east-west across the north, just as the government has been investing in cross-rail in London.”

Mr Benn called for Yorkshire to have greater control over the funding and development of its own infrastructure as a step to addressing the imbalance.

He added: “I’m very strongly in favour of funding and decisions about transport infrastructure to be devolved to the north.”

The Treasury has been contacted for a comment.

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