TRANSPORT IMPROVEMENTS in the North of England cannot wait any longer, a major summit in Leeds will be told today.
Council leaders from across the North will tell the Government they have run out of patience waiting for promises to improve services to be honoured.
Speakers at the summit will call on ministers to give a clear commitment to deliver a new high-speed rail network connecting the North’s major cities, known as Northern Powerhouse Rail or Crossrail North.
But council leaders will also call for measures which could bring about improvements much sooner, including the electrification of the existing railway connecting Leeds to Manchester.
The summit was called after the Government appeared to backtrack on previous commitments to electrify rail routes in the North while giving backing to a second Crossrail line in London.
Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said: “The Government’s attempts to drop or water down some of the key improvements have put their whole commitment into question.
“It is crucial that they commit to making an integrated transport network across the whole of the north and especially a commitment to a Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“However, it is just as important that the Government recommits to the upgrades that will make a difference now - for example, changing their decision to cancel the electrification of the Midland Mainline.”
The metro-mayors for the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester and leaders of Leeds and Newcastle councils will be among those at the summit.
A new policy paper from the Business North group, published ahead of the summit, called for the Government to change the way it decides which projects are funded.
It said the Government should ensure the potential wider economic benefits are taken into account and allow more infrastructure decisions to be taken locally.
Chris Hearld, Business North chairman and Leeds-based North region chairman for accountancy firm KPMG, said: “Business North is clear the region urgently needs capital investment to update its creaking transport infrastructure.
“Such investment is essential if we are to improve our connectivity and unlock the region’s huge potential, and bridge the current productivity gap.”