BORIS Johnson today pledged to “turbo charge” the North with a new £350m rail link, as he continues to visit various UK hotspots on his “lovebombing” mission.
Today’s trip to Manchester – three days after he became Prime Minister – saw a focus on domestic issues, with a nod to transport improvements, education and fighting crime.
In a keynote address given after plodding about a tramline construction in Stretford – while in full high-vis, and sporting a trailing shoelace and typically jaunty hardhat – he promised to deliver a new rail route between Manchester and Leeds.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to be the PM who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did with Crossrail in London.
“And today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.
“It will be up to local people and us to come to an agreement on what’s next – and I have tasked officials to accelerate their work on these plans so that we are ready to do a deal in the autumn.”
In an unusually calm and slower-paced speech Mr Johnson told the crowd to “feel free to applaud” after the first chunk of his announcement.
As they clapped and he took a quick swig of a drink next to him he chuckled and said “that’s the spirit”, before picking up the pace to announce more transport improvements.
As he got to buses Mr Johnson excitedly declared “I love buses, I know a lot about buses” as he became more animated in the key speech.
The freshly-minted PM also said he would “improve the unglamorous local services which people use every day”, such as buses, saying it is about “services within cities, not just services between cities”.
I want to be the PM who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did with Crossrail in London.
Downing Street said that detailed plans regarding the proposed Manchester to Leeds rail route will be published in the autumn, following a review into HS2.
The trans-Pennine route is expected to cut journey times and provide additional capacity for people across the region.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to help local leaders bring their local services in all our towns and cities up to the standards of the best.
“And I want that to start now, with improvements that can happen in the short term, not just big engineering schemes that will take years.”
Yesterday Mr Johnson “absolutely” ruled out calling a general election before the Brexit deadline day of October 31.
He is set to visit Scotland next week, with trips to Wales and Northern Ireland also being discussed as part of a whistle-stop tour of the country.
Today’s speech comes as Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees Mogg insisted the only way Tory rebels could block a potential no-deal Brexit on October 31 was to revoke Article 50 and keep the UK in the EU.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “There is no way that Parliament can stop Brexit unless there is a vote of no confidence and there is a new government, or the law is changed, but how will the law be changed?
“All these people who witter on about no deal really don’t want to leave the European Union at all.
“It’s just code for saying they don’t want to leave and they think the referendum is a mistake.
“But they are not daring to put down a motion to revoke Article 50, are they?”
Referring to Tory rebels, Mr Rees Mogg said: “These are the only two ways Parliament could stop no deal – revoking Article 50 or bringing down the Government.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald was dismissive of the Manchester-Leeds rail pledge, stating: “This project has been announced time and time again by the Conservatives.
“With Boris Johnson’s staggering failure to build a bridge across the Thames and an estuary airport I’m not confident he’ll be able to deliver better train services between Leeds and Manchester.”
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