Former UK Chancellor George Osborne has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to commit to high speed rail in the north of England in a bid to boost the so called "Northern Powerhouse", it emerged on Tuesday 22 August.
Osborne, the MP for the Greater Manchester seat of Tatton between 2001 and 2017, pushed for a devolution of powers from Whitehall to the region while in Number 10. His plan saw the creation of metro-mayors for Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands, amongst other regions.
But since leaving the House of Commons he has become the editor of London's Evening Standard, a popular free publication which has been highly critical of May's premiership. However, Osborne, as the chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has now renewed his devolution calls in the Financial Times.
"This autumn we will find out whether the UK government is truly committed to the idea of building a Northern Powerhouse. Repeating the slogan is not the same as taking the decisions to make it a reality," he wrote.
"Behind the name lies a compelling concept: if we can better connect the cities of the north, the whole region can attract more business and create more jobs.
"The great cities of the north of England, such as Newcastle and Sheffield, are not individually large enough to be a counterweight to London.
"Join them together, however, and the population of about 10m becomes significant enough to attract global interest. There is no geographical reason why this cannot happen — the distance between Manchester and Leeds is shorter than the length of the Central line on the London Underground. Nor is it because of a lack of investment."
But Mick Cash. the general secretary of the UK's largest transport trade union the RMT, accused Osborne of "hypocrisy" and "fuelling the civil war" inside the Conservative Party.
"This is a man who was the key player in government's which presided over fragmented, cash-starved and privatised rail across the North and which put profiteering first while passengers were left rammed into clapped-out, lashed-up Pacer trains," he said.
"The real legacy of George Osborne's period in Government is axed electrification, modernisation and renewal programmes and private train companies given a political instruction to axe safety-critical guards from their trains.
"RMT will not sit back while the facts are ignored, history is rewritten and northern rail services are reduced to a de-staffed shambles. Our members are fighting for safe, accessible rail services for all while the Tories are busy fighting amongst themselves."