Tracy Brabin: "Give North a London-style transport network with HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Leeds mass transit system"

West Yorkshire’s mayor Tracy Brabin has called on the Government to finally fulfil its promises to the North by creating a London-style transport network for the region.

Tracy Brabin has set out her vision for investment in Northern transport. Picture: Gary Longbottom

She told The Yorkshire Post that the Government should commit to building the HS2 Eastern leg between Birmingham and Leeds, go ahead with the Northern Powerhouse Rail project and ensure it includes a new line with a station in Bradford, complete electrification upgrades to the existing Transpennine route and give the go-ahead to the long-awaited creation of a mass transit system in Leeds.

Ms Brabin said the Government needs to commit to the creation of a “London-style transport system” if it genuinely wants to deliver on its levelling up promises.

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“We have to have the same opportunity to travel around our region at a fair price and a joined-up system so your journey is not going to take two hours,” she said.

Tracy Brabin speaking at the Labour conference alongside fellow Northern mayors Dan Jarvis and Andy Burnham.

Her comments follow Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling the Conservative Party conference reaffirming the Government’s manifesto commitment to building Northern Powerhouse Rail, but not giving any further detail on long-mooted proposals for new high-speed connections between northern cities.

Mr Johnson also said it was a “disgrace that Leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system”.

However, his speech did not mention HS2 and there are growing doubts whether the mooted Eastern leg route between Birmingham and Leeds will get the go-ahead.

'Time for Government to deliver'

With a host of major policy announcements from the Government due in the next few weeks - including the Budget, the three-year Comprehensive Spending Plan, the Integrated Rail Plan and the Levelling Up White Paper - Ms Brabin said it was time for Mr Johnson to deliver on his promises.

“We have heard over the last few years, announcement after announcement, statement after statement. The mass transit commitment is in the Conservative party manifesto but there is not a shovel in the ground.

“We hear briefings and gossip but we need clarity, we need the Integrated Rail Plan. For example if HS2 is not built, our region loses £1.7bn of investment every year. We have seen in Birmingham, getting on with the job brings investment immediately.

"I’m saying to Government - we shouldn’t have to choose. The Prime Minister only mentioned Northern Powerhouse Rail and mass transit - it can’t just be that. We need the Trans-Pennine upgrade, we need HS2.

“If Government are going to commit to their climate agenda that is pivotal for our region and our nation. The fact he mentioned only a couple of projects is a bit troubling.

“I’m hoping that doesn’t mean they are going soft on their commitments to us as a region.”

Projects 'must be delivered in full'

She said it was vital that NPR is delivered properly.

“What we absolutely cannot have is the Transpennine upgrade rebadged as Northern Powerhouse Rail. We absolutely need a brand new piece of infrastructure that can be built quite swiftly, that will make a massive difference to our community.

"Having Bradford on a spur has held Bradford back and this is a chance to really bring on that young, talented community and get them to those great jobs in Sheffield and Leeds and Manchester and to bring inward investment to Bradford.”

As part of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s funding bid to the Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, it is seeking £200m to make a start on the creation of a mass transit system across Leeds, which would be integrated with the bus and rail networks.

Ms Brabin said: “We need Government to commit to the first seed funding of £200m that we have submitted. Then we want to make sure it is also a commitment for the lifetime of this Government because this is going to be a generation of work that is going to go beyond this Government potentially into a Labour Government and potentially beyond that.”

Investments 'can help with net zero target'

Ms Brabin said going ahead with HS2 would also help the Government deliver on its net zero ambitions by reducing the numbers travelling across the region by car.

“We have to get people out of their cars and onto brilliant European style, London style transport that gets them to work cost-effectively, efficiently, with clean, green transport.

“This is surely one of the biggest tools they have got - one of the biggest infrastructure projects they have committed to in the North and now there is this uncertainty.”

She added that she would not be opposed to Northern Powerhouse Rail being prioritised ahead of HS2 - but added providing certainty that the latter project will go ahead is vital.

Last month, Lorna Pimlott, HS2 Phase 2b sponsorship director, said that the confirmed phase one route from London to Birmingham has resulted in £20bn worth of investment being committed to the latter city already but warned the current suspension of work on the Eastern leg was holding back any similar benefit for Leeds.

Ms Brabin said: “If you prioritise, that is not necessarily the biggest issue in the world. In Birmingham as soon as you committed to it, inward investment came. All we need is for Government to say, it is going to happen. We are going to do NPR and then we are going to do HS2.

“To be honest we just need that commitment from Government because then we can start doing the work ourselves of bringing inward investment around the station that we’ve ringfenced and are ready to go.”

The West Yorkshire mayor added that delivering on levelling up must also include investment in skills training, climate change mitigation and raising living standards in addition to transport infrastructure.

“We want that London-style transport system but we also need the same access to skills, training and opportunities.”

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