Mayors are urging the government to rethink a 40% cut to the body tasked with improving transport in the North.
Transport for the North (TfN) is set to have its budget slashed from £10m in 2020/21 to £6m in 2021/22.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been urged to rethink the cut in DfT funding in a letter signed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, North Tyneside Mayor Jamie Driscoll, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham.
It comes as new research found the Tories have re-announced or re-committed to major rail projects in the North more than 60 times in the last seven years – without work commencing on any of them.
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Labour analysis found Government press releases referenced variations on Northern Powerhouse Rail, Crossrail for the North or HS3 since George Osborne first promised a high-speed link connecting Leeds and Manchester in 2014.
But to date, no work has taken place.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “If ministers are serious about helping every part of the country recover from the events of the past year, we need to see action – not their trademark bluster and delaying tactics.”
In a letter, also signed by trade union leaders, Mr Shapps was warned cuts to the TfN budget “threatens the much-needed investment in transport infrastructure and initiatives in the North.”
It goes on: “Important schemes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, Trans Pennine Route Upgrade and HS2 are only the start of what the North needs to grow and prosper.
“Instead, the proposed cuts will hold back the modernisation of our network and the improved connections we so urgently need in the North.
“If the government persists it will expose its claims of ‘levelling up’ as empty rhetoric.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “This Government is absolutely committed to delivering the upgrades to level-up the North, building on more than £29 billion invested in transport across the north since 2010.
“In the next financial year, TfN have access to over £70m of funding, the majority of which will help develop proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“There is also a significant proportion of money remaining in their reserves, enabling them to carry out all their statutory functions effectively.”
They added that “on top of investing billions of pounds to achieve this, we’ve set up Transport for the North and the Northern Transport Acceleration Council to ensure projects are delivered as quickly as possible in a way that best suits the region.
“Our Integrated Rail Plan will soon outline exactly how major rail projects, including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, will work together to deliver the reliable train services that passengers need and deserve.”