Rishi Sunak told Leeds needs to 'see the colour of the money' after his bold transport claims

Rishi Sunak has been told Leeds needs to “see the colour of the money” after he promised to treat the city “like London” when he makes decisions about transport funding

Mr Sunak made the claim during an interview with the BBC, when he also said the Government will invest in “the things that matter most” to people in the north, such as protecting bus routes and fixing potholes.

He also repeatedly refused to say whether HS2 will run to Manchester, amid concerns that leg of the high-speed line is going to be cut due to concerns about rising costs.

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But Councillor James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, and West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said the Government needs to stop making empty promises and provide funding which will tranform the city’s outdated transport network.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks to his hotel on the first day of the Conservative Part Conference in ManchesterPrime Minister Rishi Sunak walks to his hotel on the first day of the Conservative Part Conference in Manchester
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak walks to his hotel on the first day of the Conservative Part Conference in Manchester

It comes as they are calling for the Government to provide Leeds with high-speed rail links, more than £2bn for a mass transit system and additional funding to improve bus services.

Downing Street has previously been accused of prioritising London over other parts of the country, as official figures show the capital received £882 of transport funding per head in 2019/20 while the average for all other regions was £489.

“We need to see the colour of the money. We need a clear funding allocation and delivery timetable to see when things are going to happen,” said Councillor Lewis.

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“We’ve had quite a lot of promises that have not been delivered. We spent over 10 years working with the Government on bringing HS2 to Leeds and it seems that will never happen.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City CouncilCouncillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council
Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council

Ms Brabin said: “The stark reality is that the capital has six times as many buses on its streets as West Yorkshire, better trains and a series of joined-up underground, tram and light rail networks.

“In West Yorkshire, we’re trying to build a London-style transport system fit for the 21st century, but flip-flopping on vital infrastructure projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is holding us back.

“We urgently need fairer investment in our transport network from Westminster to achieve our ambitions for a better-connected North.”

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Local leaders in Leeds were left disappointed in 2021, when the Government announced that new high-speed lines built as part of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will not reach Leeds because both projects have been scaled back.

Ministers appeared to scrap the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds to save money – but the Department of Transport is currently conducting a study which will look at whether services can run to the city via another route.

People in Leeds are also waiting for the £11.5bn TransPennine Route Upgrade, first announced in 2011, to be completed. The upgrade of the 76-mile line, which runs between York and Manchester, promises to cut journey times, improve reliability and increase capacity when it is finished in 2033.

The Government has promised to fund a mass transit network that will link towns and cities across West Yorkshire by 2040. It is expected to cost more than £2bn.

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West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) is currently considering a number of possible routes and trying to decide on a mode of transport, as it considers trams, tram-train vehicles and modified buses.

The region was handed £830m of Government funding last year, to help it develop plans for the mass transit network and invest in bus and cycling infrastructure.

It was also handed £70m that can be used to support a bus service improvement plan, which promises to make services more frequent, more affordable and more reliable.

Ms Brabin is looking to follow in the footsteps of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and bring buses back under public control from 2027, claiming it would make services across the region more reliable and more affordable.

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The move would see West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) – the taxpayer funded organisation which she runs – take full control of the bus network so it can make decisions about routes, services and fares.

The Labour Mayor, who pledged to bring buses back under public control when she stood for election in 2021, will make a final decision in March.

The organisation has previously stated that franchising will allow it to make decisions "in the interests of local bus users", but it will require “significant” investment and it is only expected to “slow the rate of decline” in passenger numbers.

The number of journeys made in West Yorkshire fell from around 170m in 2009 to 133m in 2019/20.