Hand more transport powers to northern leaders, says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on (delayed) rail tour of the North
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for more powers for be handed to local and regional transport bodies in the North as he pledged to improve services for northern commuters during a rail tour of the region.
Mr Corbyn started his journey at Liverpool Lime Street before travelling to Manchester, Leeds and Hull on a day when Labour hit out at what it dubbed “Tory rail mayhem”. He posed for dozens of selfies with commuters as he stopped at stations and met campaigners and politicians.
Speaking aboard a train from Leeds to Hull, which was running 16 minutes late by the time it left the station, he said public transport in the North was worse than the “fully-regulated transport system of buses, underground or overground” in London.
And he said he was “disappointed” with comments by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year which appeared to reject the idea of strategic body Transport for the North getting similar revenue-raising and borrowing powers to Transport for London.
Describing a meeting with Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham earlier that day, he said his former Labour party leadership rival did not yet have the powers for a regulated bus system similar to that in London.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “We do need regional and local transport authorities who can ensure we get an integrated service. You leave it to national decision-makers and it simply won’t happen.”
Mr Corbyn said the establishment of Transport for London as an entity with its own borrowing and investment powers had overall “been a good experience and I want the same for the rest of the country”.
When asked if it should be Transport for the North which was handed the extra powers, he replied: “Either Transport for the North or regional within the North, North East, North West, but there has to an idea that you are promoting the integration of transport development of all elements, rail, road, bus, across the whole region.”
Mr Corbyn announced that his party, if elected, would put Â£10bn into a Crossrail for the North connecting the region’s big cities in a move that would improve passenger and freight transport.
The figure prompted criticism from Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, who said Â£10bn “will not be enough to secure the transformational economic impact that Northern Powerhouse Rail needs to deliver”.
Mr Murison said a pan-northern high speed rail link would need a commitment of Â£24bn “as set out by the National Infrastructure Commission in their assessment this year”.
He added: “Whether the system is a mixture of public and private as it is today, or publicly owned as the Labour Party proposes, it should be run by and for the Northern Powerhouse by our mayors and our great civic leaders – not tinkered with from Whitehall by officials, remote from us and our economy, as it is today.”
Questioned over whether Â£10bn was sufficient, Mr Corbyn said it “would make a very good start on it and bring us the electrification that we need, that’s the important part”.
He added: “But obviously the point is to agree it, and do it and get on with it, what we have had is stop-start decision-making from the Government on this, which also means that the integration with other lines such as the Midland Mainline up to Sheffield, and its still-awaited electrification is a problem.
“There has to be an attitude by the Government that it should invest in the North, at the moment there is a four-to-one ratio of London and the South East compared to the North.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said its Â£13bn to transform transport across the North was “the biggest investment any government in history has ever made”.
He said: “We are committed to northern investment, which is why we are investing Â£3 billion upgrading the TransPennine route and providing an extra 500 carriages with space for 40,000 extra passengers.
“The Government is also committed to developing Northern Powerhouse Rail - we have given Transport for the North Â£60 million to develop proposals for the scheme, alongside Â£300 million to ensure HS2 can accommodate future NPR services.”