Guest column: Give the north the power it needs to deliver transport for the 21st century

Sir Kevin Barron (photo by Richard Maude)
Sir Kevin Barron (photo by Richard Maude)

Last week Yorkshire MPs responded to a letter by Chris Grayling to express our anger at claims of the Government’s continued neglect and underfunding of transport in the north. We said:

We could not agree more that the north makes a massive contribution to the success and prosperity of the UK. We are very proud of our region, our towns and cities, and the people we represent.

We are pleased that you acknowledge this and that our growth and prosperity is being held back by poor transport.

But we also know that the root cause of poor connectivity is under-investment in the north. Responsibility for that falls squarely upon you and your most recent predecessors.

Let us be very clear - the north stands ready to sort out its own transport priorities, as you suggest, but we must have your support.

We need the requisite powers and funding from the Government, something you have resolutely refused to release from your grip.

Instead of backing the north and its transport infrastructure you have presided over underfunding, broken promises and a scandalous north-south disparity in investment.

IPPR North found that spending in Yorkshire and the Humber is £190 per person compared with £1,943 in London.

You must address this disparity and offer us our fair share of funding.

Do that, and we can deliver the transport links the north needs.

We implore you to reconsider the cancellation of electrification of the TransPennine and Midland Mainline routes (which have been promised since 2012).

Telling the north to sort itself out at the same time as pulling the plug on major investment is at best disingenuous, at worst, an outrage.

Transport for the north could, and should, play a far more substantial role in determining and delivering our transport priorities.

We would welcome that, but it would be incumbent on you devolving more powers.

We could deliver better rail services and, with London-style powers, regulate bus services to all areas that want them.

We are serious about our transport network and challenge you to match Labour’s commitment to delivering Crossrail for the north - a coast-to-coast line from Hull to Liverpool.

You hold the keys to unlocking our potential and our future. Mr Grayling, we need no more delays.

Give us the investment, give us devolution, empower the north and we will deliver transport fit for the 21st century.