George Osborne has pledged to make the regeneration of the North central to his Autumn Statement today with cash for transport, science and infrastructure.
The Chancellor was speaking in Manchester at the unveiling of the 15-year investment plan, One North: A Proposition for an Interconnected North.
The £15bn proposal is aimed at maximising economic growth in the North and sees councils in Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield form an alliance.
Their strategy will target the region’s Victorian infrastructure and boost connectivity between North cities so their combined economic power can rival the dominance of London and the South East.
But the Chancellor has been accused of “show-boating” by the transport union RMT. Its acting general secretary Mick Cash said Mr Osborne’s words are “totally at odds” with his austerity measures to date and branded the Chancellor “the axe-man in chief”.
Mr Osborne told businesses and civic leaders that cash to support the plans will be made available in his Autumn Statement.
Mr Osborne said: “Work with me over the coming months and together we will make a reality of the plan I’ve set out for the Northern Powerhouse.
“I’m ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport and new science. And real new civic power too.
“Today I’m setting out the pathway to this Northern Powerhouse, so we deliver a real improvement in the long term economic performance of the North of England.
“This will be a centrepiece of my Autumn Statement - and part of our long term economic plan for the country.”
The One North plans are a response to a challenge set out by HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins and the Chancellor in his Northern Powerhouse speech in June.
The Chancellor yesterday acknowledged the North had not grown as fast as the South but said the proposals represented “real consensus” and could unlock the region’s potential.
He said: “There is a prize that awaits the North of England. If we work together, bring our cities together, invest in future transport and skills and science, we can build a Northern Powerhouse.
“The prize is worth fighting for: adding over £56bn to the economy of the North – in real terms, over £1,600 for each person living here.
“I have today set out the pathway to that northern powerhouse. Let us walk it together.”
But Mr Cash said: “While RMT welcomes any moves to invest in transport infrastructure in the North it should be remembered that these plans are totally at odds with those outlined in the Government’s current consultation on Northern Rail and Trans Pennine Express which, far from recommending expansion, actually slash services to ribbons.
“It is also pure show-boating for George Osborne, whose austerity cuts are behind the axing of jobs and services on the railways, to claim he is backing modernisation and investment when he is, of course, the axe-man in chief.
“Two decades of privatisation also shows us that the private sector cannot be trusted to run transport as anything other than a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
“Any expansion of services in the North, like those being proposed by the local authorities today, must be run in the public sector as a public service free from the poison of greed and profiteering.”
The One North report suggests: A new trans-Pennine route and a faster route to Newcastle; Growing airports and expanding routes in the North; A new rail line using faster trains between Newcastle and the Darlington area; Speeding up and making more reliable services to London from Newcastle on the East Coast mainline before HS2 is completed; HS2 services extended northwards from Newcastle to Edinburgh; New cross city services including routes from Newcastle to Northumberland.