The chief executive of Transport for the North (TfN) has written an open letter to all political parties calling on the new government to stay the course with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
The news comes amid infighting in the team tasked by the Government with carrying out an emergency review of HS2.
Its deputy chair claimed he has been sidelined and that the unfinished report is likely to be locked away until after next month's general election. The review is being led by Douglas Oakervee, a former chair of HS2 Ltd, supported by a panel of experts. However, longstanding HS2 sceptic Lord Berkeley was his deputy.
TfN's Barry White called on the Oakervee Review process to recognise the importance of HS2 to the North and suggested that transport and freight movement was at the heart of unlocking the region's prosperity and closing its productivity gap with the South.
'We need Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2. Delivered together, in lock-step, they’d amount to a rail revolution for the One North economy we set out to achieve in 2015. One our communities have waited for patiently,' he said.
'For Northern Powerhouse Rail, this means the most transformational £39bn network spanning from Liverpool to Hull and Sheffield to Newcastle. A mix of new lines and significant upgrades bringing fast, reliable journeys to our main hubs. Millions of people better connected by rail.
'That should include new lines between Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington and Manchester Airport, and between Manchester and Leeds. Significant upgrades would create turn-up and go services between Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, the wider North East and Hull. All journey times slashed, each station location a chance to ignite regeneration and foster new enterprise.
'We believe any future Government should back this blueprint to improve people’s opportunities and their quality of life. Like those in our bold, youngest city Bradford, where we believe a central station would be the best catalyst for genuine transformation.
'A new Government should recognise this and back masterplanning of the city’s central station as soon as possible. Whether developing new, city-defining stations such as Manchester Piccadilly or Liverpool, or stations in new locations such as Barnsley Dearne Valley, the aim is the same – enabling greater opportunity across the North.'
Mr White went on to call for the Government to commit funding to fast-track delivery of the major upgrades as part of the first phase of delivery, including the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield, the East Coast Mainline between York and Newcastle, and connections to Hull. Achieving a spade in the ground in 2024.
He also called for devolved, multi-mode budgets and said these issues 'transcend party politics'.
'We ask that all parties advance this agenda, putting right decades of under investment, and work with a united North to deliver the opportunity to re-balance the UK economy.'