Each of the elected metro mayors across northern England - alongside Northern Research Group chair Jake Berry, issued a strident demand that the measures to revolutionise Northern transport promised by successive governments be delivered in full.
The cross party message is made amid concerns about the forthcoming Integrated Rail Plan which many fear will see plans for the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) either watered down or scrapped.
But West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin, South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis, Greater Manchester mayor Steve Rotherham, North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll and Mr Berry, used the Great Northern Conference in Sheffield to say collectively that the schemes must be delivered in full, with all politicians keen to call for the Northern Powerhouse Rail to include a stop in Bradford.
Mr Burnham said: “We are talking about the eastern leg being dropped, Manchester Piccadilly being nothing like we want it to be, we are talking about Northern Powerhouse Rail to the extent that it even exists any more being an upgrade.
“I think if you ask the mayors on this panel, we are absolutely united representing millions of people across the North of England that it needs to be that new line that the Prime Minister promised in front of Stephenson’s Rocket in Manchester and that new line has to go via Bradford, because Bradford needs to be in the mix if we are to bring the great cities of the north together. We are not hearing great noises on that but I think it is time for us to be clear about what we were originally promised. These are not things we dreamed up, these were things that were promised to us.”
He added: “We’ve got to get back to a bigger vision of levelling up where we link towns to cities and cities to cities. It’s that big strategic investment that will lift the economy of the North of England.”
Mr Berry told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve always been clear that if you’re building a once in a hundred year infrastructure you’ve got to build it right. Bradford is so well placed as a city to form part of the new, green, industrial revolution. It’s got the youngest population, I think, in Europe. There’s highly skilled and ambitious individuals there.”
The Government has made numerous commitments to both NPR and HS2 prior to the pandemic but neither were mentioned in this week’s Budget amid reports they are in jeopardy. The Government has promised to provide £4.8bn of levelling up funding and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced this week which areas were successful in their bids.
Mr Jarvis said the Government’s decision on rail would impact the north for more than a hundred years.
“This not a moment to be timid, this is a moment to be bold. The right decisions taken now so we can unlock investment and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the years to come.
The Integrated Rail Plan, the commitments to NPR and HS2 are fundamental to that.”
And Ms Brabin said all schemes were “absolutely pivotal” to levelling up.
“You can’t give us a watered down version of the plan,” she said.
The Integrated Rail Plan is set to spell out the Government’s long term plan for railways in the country.
There is no definitive date for the plan to be published but it is anticipated to arrive in the next few weeks.
A Government spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling up the North and delivering economic growth and prosperity through improved transport infrastructure.
The Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 phase 2b, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers across the North and Midlands need and deserve. Levelling up is about boosting living standards, particularly where they are lower; spreading opportunity and improving public services, particularly where they are weak; and restoring local pride across the UK. This is why we’re investing a record £100bn in infrastructure projects this year.