Leaders of councils throughout the north of England have sent a joint letter to the Conservative party leadership contenders urging them to commit to the delivery of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle city council leaders have been joined by the mayor of Greater Manchester, the metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region, as well as many other northern towns in urging the next prime minister to commit to HS2 and NPR.
The council leaders represent a combined total of 15.4 million people living and working in the Northern Powerhouse corridor. They say that, with the future prosperity of the region balanced on the successful implementation of an effective and forward-facing infrastructure strategy, any future leader of the Conservative party, and therefore the prime minister, must be “a strong advocate for communities in the north at such a crucial juncture.”
Their letter to all the leadership candidates says: “There is no realistic alternative to the delivery of both HS2 and NPR. The benefits to the north, and to the entire UK, of a clear long-term rail investment programme are huge. However, if we fail to invest in our railways now and give certainty on the transformation to follow, not only will the national economy be hindered, but a clear and powerful signal will be sent that, once again, the north has been overlooked by Westminster. As leaders representing the north of England, we look forward to your support in ensuring that rail investment is prioritised to drive economic rebalancing and a transformed north.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The next prime minister must take notice of so many of our colleagues across the north promoting this important issue. We know there is huge potential in the north that can be harnessed by the implementation of HS2 and NPR. What we now need is the firm commitment from central government to carry this through. This is a once in a generation opportunity for us which if successful, will secure the future economic prosperity of northern communities. We must seize it with both hands."
The letter follows the request from a group of more than 80 MPs in April, who called on chancellor Phillip Hammond to give a firm commitment to deliver Transport for the North’s strategic plans and to fully devolve transport budgets to city and metro mayors.