That was the claim from Jessie Joe Jacobs, a Labour hopeful to become Metro Mayor in Tees Valley, as she spoke at a fringe event at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton yesterday.
Ms Jacobs said, after spending a day with Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester, “it felt like politics was very much brought closer to home”.
She said: “He runs Manchester like he’s running the country but people can knock on his door, he can meet with you, communities that has an access to power that they don’t when we are talking about Whitehall.
“Britain is still one of the most centralised countries in Europe, it’s shocking to me that our policies are created here that often don’t reflect the broad diversity of the regions, the amount spent on transport is a prime example.”
She said: “We get so little we literally have repurposed buses that travel on rail, that’s how people are made to get around, we have whole communities and whole villages that can’t actually get a bus into their town, they were organising on Facebook to get a lift to the supermarkets, that’s what we’ve got in terms of the current centralised power and we want to take that power back, we want to be able to determine our bus routes, we want to be able to bring our transport system under complete control and public consultation.”
The comments came as the experience of rail passengers in the North was set to be highlighted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authorit,y as it makes the case for investment in the network in the short, medium and long term.
The authority found that this summer, TransPennine Express reported they were running at 102% of peak capacity into Leeds. An estimated 114 passengers are being left behind at stations every day on Northern services on the Calder Valley line between Leeds and Manchester due to overcrowding.
Plus the latest research from think-tank IPPR North shows transport spending has increased two and a half times per person more in the capital compared to the North over the last decade.
The combined authority’s own research shows if Government investment in transport and economic development had matched the rate of increase over the last four years of those areas with the greatest devolved powers, this would amount to an extra £810m per year for Yorkshire and the Humber.
At a Labour Party conference fringe event later today, hosted in partnership with IPPR North, the combined authority will explore what more needs to be done to unlock the transformation in transport infrastructure.
Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority transport lead, said: “Britain needs both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with a line running through Bradford city centre, alongside investment in the East Coast Main Line and an upgraded trans-Pennine line to deliver the economic outcomes our region, the North and the UK, need to prosper in the decades ahead.
“Our plans show HS2, integrated with local transport at a transformed Leeds station, can deliver 40,000 additional jobs directly and a further 50,000 through productivity and regeneration benefits by 2050 in the Leeds City Region.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Industry measures, which are disappointing enough, offer only a partial picture of the disruption to families and business caused by the poor performance of the rail network in the North.
“Good public transport links underpin a region’s economic prosperity and is key to tackling the climate emergency and improving air quality. We need to make sure that all of our communities have access to 21st Century transport connections to help rebalance the UK economy.
“The North will only have the modern reliable transport network it needs with investment in extra capacity and that includes HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with a line through Bradford City Centre.”