Company bosses said it was unacceptable that the north of England should be forced to contend with substandard rail and road links while citizens in London and the South East enjoy public spending figures per head which significantly outstrip those in the north.
The message was delivered after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling appeared to backtrack on pledges to electrify key rail routes around the north whilst throwing his support behind the Crossrail 2 project in London which is priced at £30bn.
Writing in today’s The Yorkshire Post Mr Grayling denied Government was going back on its commitments, saying “the economy of the north had lagged behind that of the south for too long” and acknowledged that poor transport infrastructure was a large factor in this.
However Beckie Hart, CBI Yorkshire and Humber director, said “we need action, not words, and delivery, not delay” on transport spending, while one chamber of commerce president pledged to hold ministers’ “feet to the fire”.
Ms Hart told this newspaper: “With a pipeline of infrastructure projects confirmed across the UK, now is the time to step up a gear.
“It’s vital that projects in different parts of the country are not seen as “either or”. Improving the North of England’s infrastructure should come at the same time as enhancements in the South.
“Infrastructure is at the heart of productivity growth, and therefore crucial to raising living standards. A determined focus on delivery will ensure the widest possible benefits are spread right across the United Kingdom.”
Steve Gillingham, director for the North at developers Mace, said: “Nobody begrudges the extra investment into London but what we want this Government to do is to also honour its commitment to the great cities of the north of England.
“In its new industrial strategy the Government officially acknowledged the historic under investment in northern infrastructure and pledged to tackle it.
“For too long the UK has been one of the most centralised countries in the world with almost all of the country’s decision-making made in Westminster.
“This £30bn investment into Crossrail 2 highlights once again that it is essential that the Government grants statutory powers to Transport for the North sooner rather than later as without these the powers the case for infrastructure investment in the north remains under-represented in the corridors of power.”
Gerald Jennings, Leeds Chamber President, said: “Chris Grayling spoke at the Chamber’s annual dinner in January and made commitments to our regions business leaders which we expect to see fulfilled. Crossrail North must carry the same weight in the minds of government as Crossrail 2 if we are to ensure economic growth can be more evenly distributed.
“The Chamber will continue to hold government’s feet to the fire.”