By John Baron
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley today – and confirmed the Government would fully fund a mass transit system in West Yorkshire, but stopped short of committing to specific timescales.
Mr Sunak’s visit to the thriving mill complex in Farsley saw him speak to business owners after yesterday’s autumn budget, in which the government set out plans to cut national insurance and boost pensions.
He also made some jewellery when visiting Sunny Bank Mills jeweller Emma White.
During his visit, West Leeds Dispatch asked the PM about plans for a West Yorkshire Mass Transit system. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a tube or a tram system, buses are unreliable and here are chronic problems with traffic congestion.
WLD asked whether Mr Sunak could guarantee 100% that the region will get a mass transit system, when would it be implemented and whether the Government would commit to fully finding the system, which would see one of its lines run through West Leeds as it connects Leeds city centre with Bradford.
“There is going to be significantly more money for West Yorkshire Mass Transit following the decision I made on HS2 and we are repurposing every penny we would have spent on HS2 expansion and deploying that across the North,” said the Prime Minister.
“A good chunk of that has been kept aside to deliver mass transit. So there will be more funding for that. It can be delivered in full, because previously there wasn’t the full funding available. You’re right, it was half a billion pounds but now there will be considerably more to deliver it.”
When WLD pushed him on timescales, he told us: “Conversations are ongoing between the Department for Transport and local authorities. These projects take time to plan and deliver, you can’t do them overnight. This was a long-term decision that I made because it was better to spend the money on projects like that, as well as across the North.
“We are fully electrifying the lines from Hull to Leeds to Sheffield and to Manchester, that’s £3 billion of investment that’s going to significantly improve capacity to those places. Bradford is getting a £2 billion investment in the form of a new station, and faster connections to Manchester as well.
“There are a lot of good things happening. These are all the forms of transport that people use regularly and they’ve been crying out for investment. As a result of the decision on HS2 all these communities across Yorkshire and the North are going to see this investment.”
Mr Sunak also told the press that businesses could expect to see cuts to their rates in the next year.
“It is really exciting, what is happening in Leeds,” he added. “When I was Chancellor, my first ever visit after the first budget was to Leeds. I made the decision to put the UK’s first infrastructure bank in Leeds. We have one of our Conservative Party offices here as well.
“We are big backers of Leeds. You can see that in the investment that has gone into transport infrastructure, for example. Delivering on mass transit is critical to Leeds’ future growth.
“But also, devolution and making sure that local people are in control of their own destiny is really important, and we are delivering on that. Most of all, this is about backing the incredible people and businesses of Leeds. I have been talking to some of them here today together with [Pudsey MP] Stuart Andrew, and they are incredibly entrepreneurial people.
“They need a government that is behind them, and that’s why in the Autumn statement we said we would continue to support the economy.”