Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham highlighted that a train journey between Chester and Manchester is now slower than in the 1960s.
Mr Burnham told delegates at a transport summit in Leeds that the north of England ‘needs transport investment now’, adding that ‘an outdated, expensive and slow transport system’ was holding back growth.
Speaking to political and business officials, Mr Burnham said: “It takes four minutes longer to travel by train from Manchester to Chester than it did in 1962.
“I think that pretty much makes for why we are here today.”
He described the nation as ‘London-centric’ and ‘too centralised’, saying a partnership with the government was essential and urging it to ‘play your part of the bargain’.
The meeting was called after transport secretary Chris Grayling threw the promised full electrification of the Manchester to Leeds route into doubt last month.
Shortly afterwards he announced his backing for the £30bn Crossrail 2 line in London.
Former chancellor George Osborne has also waded into the debate. He is calling on prime minister Theresa May to back his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project and build high-speed rail links across northern England. Failure to do so would risk allowing the capital to continue to grow faster than the rest of the country, he said.
ITV Granada reporter Daniel Hewitt recently tested out public transport links between Manchester and Thornton Science Park near Ellesmere Port which received millions of pounds worth of investment as part of the Northern Powerhouse vision.
He found a 35-mile journey that would take 50 minutes by road can take almost two and a half hours by train.
An accompanying article on the ITV website stated: “There’s anger from businesses about how plans for the Northern Powerhouse are stalling at the starting gate. When it comes to public transport for example you can get from Manchester to London in two hours eight minutes.
“But if you want to get from Manchester to some of our most important scientific businesses near Ellesmere Port, a journey of just 35 miles, it can take almost two and a half hours. And that’s not the only journey across the North West that can seem to go on forever.
“Business leaders say they’ve been let down by the Government – which has cancelled plans to electrify some our trains.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has called on leaders to ‘take control’ of their own transport networks. He made his comments in a Yorkshire Post article ahead of the Leeds transport summit.
“The success of northern transport depends on the north itself,” the transport secretary had said.
Among the delegates attending the event were leaders of Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester councils, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and business representatives.
In a joint statement, northern leaders called for the government to commit to ‘new investment in modern local infrastructure’.