Chris Grayling says north should “take control” of transport

The north needs to step up to shape its own transport destiny, says transport secretary Chris Grayling.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has said the north of England should “take control” of its transport network.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post Grayling said: “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.” 

He said that the government were fully committed to transport investment in the north, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, adding that the government had given Transport for the North £60m to invest in the scheme. 

Grayling’s comments were in response to recent anger from political and business leaders in the north of England after the government announced they would scrap plans to electrify a number of rail lines. Yesterday former Chancellor George Osborne also called on the government to commit to Northern Powerhouse Rail.  

The transport secretary also criticised those who had doubted the government’s commitment to transport investment in the north, citing comments made by the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and the shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald who he said had “mistakenly claimed that the government is rowing back on our commitment to the north because we favoured Crossrail 2 in the south”. Burnham and McDonald’s comments had cast doubts on the government’s plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the proposed East-West railway linking Liverpool and Hull, he said but they were both wrong, said Grayling.

Listing a wide range of investments on transport projects across the north, Grayling said that the funding was only part of the solution. “What’s just as important is the north stepping up to shape its own transport destiny,” he said. 

“By setting up Transport for the North (TfN) and backing the election of metro mayors, we have given the north greater autonomy and control and a powerful voice to articulate the case for new transport projects. As soon as I became transport secretary, I began taking steps to put TfN on a statutory footing. 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.

Ultimately, said Grayling, it wasn’t up to central government to grasp the opportunities for transport development in the north. “The success of northern transport depends on the north itself - on TfN, businesses, mayors and devolved authorities, and on local communities. They understand the north’s transport problems better than anyone, and with their knowledge, we can fix them,” he said.

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