SHIFTING economic power North will be the key to Britain prospering when it leaves the European Union, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said tonight.
The Minister admitted transport in Yorkshire was “not nearly good enough” but insisted the Government was committed to “putting it right”.
We know the transport infrastructure across the North is not nearly good enough for a region with such incredible potential.Now we are putting it right,Transport Secretary Chris Grayling
He called for a repeat of the Victorian era when investment in transport transformed the North economy.
Mr Grayling, a leading figure in the Leave campaign last year, described Britain’s departure from the European Union as an “exciting time” for Yorkshire but also a move with “big implications for the North”.
Speaking at an event in Leeds, he said: “For the country to thrive outside the EU, we need a more balanced economy.
“If we’re going to prosper as a nation, we need to do something we last did during the Victorian era – move our economic centre of gravity Northwards.
“And empower businesses here by investing in modern transport connections.”
Mr Grayling described transport as the “spark that fired growth” in Victorian Yorkshire.
He told the Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner: “It was the only time in our modern history when we saw a fundamental shift in our economic geography northwards.
“Yet the role of transport in stimulating growth and jobs hasn’t changed.
“It is exactly the same today as it’s always been.”
He added: Make the right decisions and the right investments, and transport can be a game changer once again. A catalyst for enterprise that can realise the growth potential of Yorkshire in the years ahead.”
Mr Grayling credited transport with creating the first Northern Powerhouse in the 19th Century and argued it could do so again.
“We know the transport infrastructure across the North is not nearly good enough for a region with such incredible potential.Now we are putting it right,” he said. “This is the best opportunity in our lifetimes to level the playing field between North and South.
“Not by dragging London down but by firing up the North with transport connections that match the very best in Europe.”
Mr Grayling acknowledged there was “disappointment” in Leeds about the Government’s decision not to support the trolleybus scheme last year after it was strongly criticised by a planning inspector.
The Government agreed the city could keep the £173m earmarked for the project to spend on other transport improvements.
Speaking at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, Mr Grayling said the money “will make a real difference to transport in this city”.
He also urged councils and business in South Yorkshire to “come together” amid ongoing disputes over where the area’s station to serve the HS2 high speed rail line should be located.