Andy Burnham and Dan Jarvis welcome arrival of 'straight-talking Tory' at Transport for the North

Labour mayors Andy Burnham and Dan Jarvis have welcomed the appointment of former Conservative Cabinet Minister Patrick McLoughlin as the new £60,000-a-year chairman of Transport for the North.

Lord McLoughlin’s appointment was confirmed at a Transport for the North board meeting in Manchester yesterday and he will officially start work in the new role today.

Concerns had been raised about the former Transport Secretary and Derbyshire Dales MP getting the job prior to yesterday’s meeting, with Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson questioning in Parliament whether his selection had a “whiff of jobs for the boys”.

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West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin did not offer a direct opinion on Lord McLoughlin’s appointment but revealed at the meeting that the other shortlisted candidate for the role – previously reported to be Lucy Armstrong, who chairs the Port of Tyne Authority – had dropped out of the process before he was selected.

Lord McLoughlin is the new chairman of Transport for the NorthLord McLoughlin is the new chairman of Transport for the North
Lord McLoughlin is the new chairman of Transport for the North

She asked for the report on the appointment to include that detail and added she was keen that Lord McLoughlin's job objectives will ensure he is "speaking on behalf of all of us and our positions".

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But his appointment was more clearly backed at yesterday’s Transport for the North board meeting by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and South Yorkshire’s Dan Jarvis.

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Mr Burnham said that having dealt with Lord McLoughlin for 16 years when they were both MPs, he found him to be a “straight talker and somebody... who understands the need to bring back investment to the Midlands and the North”.

He added: “We just need to reflect on the fact that a former Transport Secretary and a very distinguished one at that has decided to join this organisation.

“The fact he has stepped forward reflects the fact that what we are doing on this board is tremendously important for the future of this country and the rebalancing of this country.

“This is the right appointment at the right time.”

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis described Lord McLoughlin as a “good signing and a big hitter politically”.

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He said a forthcoming Transport Select Committee hearing in Parliament on the Integrated Rail Plan represented an ideal chance for Lord McLoughlin to highlight his arrival into his new role on a national stage.

Interim chair Louise Gittins said there had been significant interest in the job before it had reached the stage of two candidates being shortlisted.

“It shows the strength and importance of Transport for the North,” she said.

Following the meeting, George Osborne, chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and a former Cabinet colleague of Lord McLoughlin, said: "Patrick will make an experienced and capable chair.

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"He has the vision and expertise to deliver the north’s long-term economic goals alongside government and northern businesses. We at Northern Powerhouse Partnership look forward to working with him."

Lord McLoughlin’s appointment was also welcomed by the Rail Industry Association.

Justin Moss, chair of RIA North, said: “Lord McLoughlin is a strong advocate of the railway supply chain, having worked with the industry as Transport Secretary and as a champion of the industry in Parliament.

“We look forward to working with him at this important time for the rail sector, following the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan and the need to get on with levelling up the North of England through transport investment.”

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