Northern Powerhouse economy 'needs transport investment'

Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool
Image caption The Northern Powerhouse initiative aims to encourage economic growth outside of London

Politicians in northern England want Chancellor Philip Hammond to prioritise transport links in the region to make it more attractive to investors.

The Labour politicians, representing Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Liverpool, say northern motorways are reaching "saturation point".

And they say train capacity in what has been dubbed the Northern Powerhouse economic region is "at the limit".

The Treasury says an extra £1.3bn will be spent UK-wide to tackle congestion.

The chancellor will give an update on a number of government spending projects during his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, including transport upgrades.

'Inadequate rail'

The Northern Powerhouse idea is aimed at ending the UK's economic reliance on London.

Earlier this year the Conservative government said it was spending £13bn on transport for the Northern Powerhouse over the course of this Parliament "including dramatic improvements to our roads and railways in the North".

But the Labour figures, who include Greater Manchester mayoral candidate Andy Burnham, say there is now an added need, following the "wake up" call of the Brexit vote, which will see changes to the economy once the UK leaves the EU.

They say investors could lose confidence in the region - and the concept of a "Northern Powerhouse" - if there is not a realignment of how money is invested in regional transport.

"Decades of unfair allocations from the transport budget have left the North with an inadequate rail system and motorways that are at saturation point," said Mr Burnham.

"If people in London and the South East had to put up with the North's transport system, there would be protests in the streets. It is our turn to come to the front of the queue for transport investment and that must start this week."

In the 2016 Budget, the-then chancellor, George Osborne, announced £60m would be allocated to develop plans to cut journey times to around 30 minutes between Leeds and Manchester, as well as improving transport connections between other cities in the north.

It was Mr Osborne, in a speech in 2014, who said: "I'm here to talk to you today about what we can do to make the cities of the north a powerhouse for our economy."

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