Transport Secretary reaffirms commitment to HS3

The North of England should “take control” of transport policy in the region, Chris Grayling has said.

The transport secretary, writing in the Yorkshire Post, said: “Although one of my biggest priorities as secretary of state is to build the transport links the North needs to thrive, they must be designed and managed by the North itself.

“It is central government’s responsibility to provide funding and a delivery structure that ensures efficiency, value for money and accountability. But beyond this, I want the North to take control.”

The government has set up Transport for the North (TfN), a sub-national transport body for the region, and backed the election of metro mayors, which Grayling said has “given the North greater autonomy and control, and a powerful voice to articulate the case for new transport projects”.

The transport secretary said he had begun “taking steps to put TfN on a statutory footing”.

Grayling was speaking as civic leaders from across northern England attended a conference in Leeds to debate transport.

The transport secretary continued: “Instead of ministers and civil servants in Whitehall deciding what’s best for the North, I want TfN and other northern leaders to come forward with fully costed proposals to improve journeys for transport users and provide value for taxpayers.”

Grayling said the policy would not set “one region against another”, and criticised Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald for suggesting the Government was favouring Crossrail 2 in London over the HS3 project in the north.

“They cast doubts on our plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail – the proposed east-west railway linking Liverpool and Hull. They were wrong,” said Grayling.

“We are fully committed to our northern transport programme, including Northern Powerhouse Rail. In fact we have given TfN £60m to develop proposals for the scheme, and are working with them to strengthen the business case for the line. It’s exactly the same as the way we’re working with Transport for London on Crossrail 2.

“The only difference between the two schemes is that Crossrail 2 has been nine years in the making, while we started planning Northern Powerhouse Rail in 2013.”

Burnham has argued that government transport policy is too weighted towards economic tests rather than social needs, meaning the North frequently loses out to London on funding.

McDonald slammed the transport secretary for pulling the plug on the trans-Pennine electrification plan.

Yesterday, former chancellor George Osborne said the north of England should get high-speed railway lines to help boost the region’s economy

“It would bring seven million extra people – and three times the number of businesses – within a 90-minute journey time of one of the northern cities,” he said,