Leaders from across the North of England have called on the Government to rethink its plans for the future of rail, claiming the proposals do not make economic sense.
At a Transport for the North board meeting, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham suggested contributions towards the cost of rail improvements could be made from rising land values.
Members, who include regional mayors, agreed they should go back to the Government and restate their case for the Northern Powerhouse Rail plans, which they said are necessary to improve the economy in the North.
After the meeting in Leeds, Metro mayors from across the North put forward a united front to oppose the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) announced by the Government last week.
During a news conference, Mr Burnham described the IRP as a “bombshell” and said it does not solve the East-West connectivity problem between cities in the North.
“We have come together with a positive suggestion to move things forward,” he said.
They propose that regions could contribute to the cost of rail improvements by “capturing” increased land values brought about by new stations and lines, stressing this is not a tax increase on residents.
Mr Burnham explained: “When you commit to a line, you raise value of some of the land across that line.
“If you take Bradford, for instance, land values would increase in the city centre, and other countries around the world give powers at a local level to capture that value to help pay for the infrastructure, rather than it being a windfall.
“Land value capture is what it’s called, and it is absolutely not a tax on local people.”
Asked to respond to Boris Johnson saying Northern leaders were talking “tripe” about the rail plans, Liverpool City region Mayor Steve Rotheram hit back.
Referring to Mr Johnson’s speech to the CBI on Monday when he imitated the gurgle of a Ferrari, the mayor said: “I will simplify it for the Prime Minister, this is not about vroom vrooms, this is about choo choo trains and the more people we get out of cars and into well-funded and well-connected public transport, then the better it will be for the environment.”
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said the Northern leaders are going back to ministers to ask them to think again, and “explore the art of the possible”.
He said: “We still want to make the case for the Government to do what they originally committed to do – governments change their minds, U-turns are made, this Government has made quite a few of them.”
Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire Mayor, added: “We are not going to accept what we have been given, this is an opportunity to make it better.”
She also claimed the Government’s current plans do not represent value for money, saying: “If we do it in this way, we will have to do it all over again in a decade.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Our Integrated Rail Plan outlines a historic £96 billion investment in our railways, delivering upgrades faster and at better value to the taxpayer than any other plan which came before it.
“We welcome all discussions with TfN and are happy to consider proposals on its delivery, provided solutions are realistic and costed.”
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