Transport leaders from across the North yesterday called for a “one voice” political and business lobbying body to be set up.
Speaking at a transport leaders summit in Leeds, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the new body was needed to bring the “northern perspective to crucial long term issues currently being debated, such as Brexit and transport funding”.
The body would also be used to make the case for further devolution of power from Westminster to the North of England.
The announcement came hours after transport secretary Chris Grayling said transport links in the North should be driven by leaders from the region.
After a tumultuous couple of months that saw Grayling cancel and defer planned Northern rail electrification projects, the leaders urged government to honour promises it had already made to improve rail infrastructure in the North.
The new pan-Northern body, already being dubbed by some as a “Council of the North”, could, the leaders said, play a critical role in the government’s forthcoming Budget and Brexit discussions.
Burnham said the “unprecedented” gathering of Northern political and business leaders sent a clear message. “The North is getting organised and ready to get its voice heard more loudly than ever before,” he said.
“It is time now for the North to pool its political influence and show a real willingness to use it, like London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been doing in recent times. Westminster has failed the North of England but in the past we have struggled to speak with one clear voice on its unfair decisions. With the change in the parliamentary arithmetic, we have a chance to win more support for our cause.
“By working together with our council leaders, businesses and MPs – alongside trade unions and the community and voluntary sector - we can ensure a strong voice and a fair deal for the North. If we get this right, a new ‘Council of the North’ could mark a real change to the politics of our country.”