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Labour pledges to unleash economic potential of the North

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to "unleash the economic potential of the North" as Labour set out plans for ambitious new rail links to revitalise the region.

At Labour's economic conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn said the party would redress the imbalances in a country which was becoming more "unfair and unbalanced" under the Conservatives.

Earlier, shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced a Labour government would build a "Crossrail of the North", slashing travel times between east and west.

Mr Corbyn said it was in contrast to the Government which was prioritising east-west links between Cambridge and Oxford.

"The corridor of northern cities stretching from Liverpool and Preston in the west to York and Hull in the east has an economic and skills catchment big enough to match or even exceed London, and there's no reason why not with the right investment," he said.

"The Government should sort out its priorities and commit to build Crossrail for the North now. To unleash the economic potential across the North we must rebalance our economy to share power and resources.

"Unbalanced Britain is only becoming more unfair and unbalanced under the Tories; between the rich and poor, between Westminster and our nations and regions.

"Labour will challenge that failure and we will redress that by fixing a rigged system that is failing the majority of people."

Mr Corbyn's intervention comes at a time when Labour is under pressure from Ukip in its traditional heartlands in the North and Midlands, many of which voted strongly for Brexit in last year's referendum.

The Conservatives, however, warned Labour's borrowing plans would "crash" the economy, threatening jobs and infrastructure investment.

In his speech, Mr McDonnell said a new "High Speed 3" rail link would transform the economy of northern England, creating 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

"Labour is absolutely committed to delivering HS3, a Crossrail for the North, starting right here in Liverpool and connecting the great cities of the north of England," he said.

"It's at least a £10 billion commitment from Labour to invest in the North. Crossrail for the North will become the foundations for a transformed northern economy."

Labour, he said, would legislate to close the investment "gap" between North and South, requiring ministers to audit their regional capital spend against economic need, and report to Parliament when the imbalances became "excessive".

A Conservative spokesman said: "Having previously suggested that the South East of England had not received enough investment, Labour are now saying that this Government has invested too much.

"The truth is Labour's real policy of borrowing half a trillion pounds would hurt ordinary working people by crashing our economy and threatening jobs and infrastructure."

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