Yorkshire mayors join forces with others across north calling on Grant Shapps to commit to Northern Powerhouse Rail

Yorkshire mayors have joined forces with others across the north of England calling on the Government to commit to Northern Powerhouse Rail and warning they are at risk of “exacerbating the north-south divide” if they do not invest.

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis and his West Yorkshire counterpart Tracy Brabin are among the signatories to tell Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that they are “deeply concerned” by recent reports that the Northern Powerhouse and the Eastern Leg of HS2 to Leeds could be scaled back, offering passengers across the north a “cut-price bare minimum”.

In a letter seen by The Yorkshire Post - and also signed by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region - they request a meeting with Mr Shapps and insist that not investing in the projects would be a “false economy”.

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The note sent yesterday evening reads: “Along with the reform of local transport (intra-city) services to create a London-style system, with London-level fares, Northern Powerhouse Rail offers one of the most significant and tangible ways to demonstrate to voters that this government is sincere about meeting its central aim of levelling up the country.

Grant Shapps at Conservative Party conference in Manchester (PA)

“For a number of years, leaders across the North have constructively engaged with Government in what we believed to be meaningful talks on delivering the high-quality, high-speed intercity rail links that our towns and cities desperately need to help reach their full potential.

“Failure to commit fully to this transformative project that would deliver the benefits that the people of Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and the rest of the UK sorely needs would be a false economy.

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"Indeed, not investing in the North now risks further exacerbating the North-South divide and only increasing the burden on the Treasury in the long run.”

Reports have been swirling for several weeks that the Government will delay or stop work entirely on the Eastern Leg of HS2, due to run from Birmingham to Leeds, as well as suggestions that Northern Powerhouse Rail plans may be scaled back and not include all of the stations first thought.

In an interview with the Financial Times last week, Mr Shapps signalled that a major rethink of the HS2 leg through Yorkshire could be in order.

He told the paper: “We want to make sure we get trains to Leeds in a way that actually benefits people on the network and not blindly follow some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people.”

There were hopes that there could have been an announcement on Northern Powerhouse Rail at Conservative Party conference last week following days of hints from the Prime Minister that a big infrastructure announcement was coming for the north, however, none was forthcoming.