Senior Tories including former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine have urged Philip Hammond to commit £100 billion to transform northern England’s rail and road network to prevent future generations enduring the misery faced by today’s commuters.
Lord Heseltine, along with other Conservatives including former transport minister Sir Robert Goodwill and ex-whip Sir Greg Knight, are among a cross-party group of more than 80 MPs and peers to press for extra investment.
They call on the Chancellor to use his Budget to commit £24 billion of funding for the high-speed Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) scheme.
That would involve an initial £24 billion of funding, including at least £200 million a year to bring forward the target completion date to coincide with the planned arrival of the HS2 line to Leeds and Manchester in 2032.
Critics have highlighted the amount spent on transport in the South East compared with the North and the letter urged the Chancellor to allocate funding for NPR so it can proceed at the same time as the Crossrail 2 scheme in London.
The letter to the Chancellor, which was sent by Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake, the co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse all-party parliamentary group, also called for a commitment to increase funding for major road and rail projects in the region to £100 billion by 2050.
Mr Hollinrake said the extra investment could see the next generation enjoy opportunities across the region which are “currently beyond young people today”.
Signatories to the letter include a string of Tory MPs representing northern constituencies at a time when Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has come under fire for his handling of the Northern rail fiasco.
We are now at a critical point – Northern Powerhouse Rail has the potential not simply to improve rail travel for commuters and families but to deliver economic growth right across the NorthKevin Hollinrake, co-chair of the Northern Powerhouse all-party parliamentary group
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has estimated businesses have lost almost £38 million because of Northern Rail disruption.
Mr Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said: “This Government has embraced the economic principles of the Northern Powerhouse to address the decades of under-investment in the North.
“We are now at a critical point – Northern Powerhouse Rail has the potential not simply to improve rail travel for commuters and families but to deliver economic growth right across the North, not simply in the core cities.
“Bringing forward the delivery date of NPR to the same time as HS2 arrives in the North could see the coming generation enjoy further education and job opportunities currently beyond young people today, and stimulate significant growth for the whole of the UK.”
Labour former minister Caroline Flint, a co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group, said: “We have seen the huge impact the recent timetable fiasco has had on the Northern Powerhouse – commuters unable to get to work, businesses losing out and childcare arrangements being disrupted.
“It is simply not good enough and needs urgent action to address the North’s outdated transport network. Investing up to £100 billion in improving roads and rail is a must-have for the people of the North.”