Boris Johnson will promise to bridge the North-South divide with a new generation of rail routes.
The new Prime Minister launched a charm offensive on the North and Midlands yesterday as he got out and about for the first time since being voted in to No 10.
Mr Johnson posed for selfies as he was mobbed by supporters in Birmingham – before heading to Manchester.
But he also had to run the gamut of a group of noisy anti-Brexit protesters – flanked by no fewer than nine minders.
Boris Johnson will announce funds for a new trans-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds, which could cost billions
Mr Johnson was mobbed by supporters but was also forced to deal with anti-Brexit protesters holding placards in Birmingham
The new Prime Minister posed for selfies as he was surrounded supporters in Birmingham – before heading to Manchester to promise to bridge the North-South divide with a new generation of rail routes
In one of his first major policy pledges, Mr Johnson will announce funds for a new trans-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds, which could cost billions.
The project, also known as Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS3, is expected to cut journey times significantly and provide additional capacity for people across the region.
Speaking in Manchester tomorrow, Mr Johnson will say that new infrastructure is needed to play a critical role in his pledge to ‘level up’ parts of the country whose economies have lagged behind London and the South East.
The move is part of wider pledge to strengthen the bonds that hold the country together in the wake of the divisive Brexit referendum.
Mr Johnson is also drawing up plans for a major new fund to improve life in Britain’s ‘left-behind towns’.
In his speech today, he will pledge to ‘improve the unglamorous local services which people use every day’, such as buses.
Mr Johnson launched a charm offensive on the North and Midlands yesterday as he got out and about for the first time since being voted in to No 10
He will say that improving the economy means focusing on ‘services within cities, not just services between cities’.
He will add: ‘I want that to start now, with improvements that can happen in the short term, not just big engineering schemes that will take years.’
Mr Johnson is also expected to outline aspects of his domestic agenda, including investment in education, tackling crime, boosting connectivity, and improving technology across the country. But the flagship announcement is backing for a new route across the Pennines to improve services which critics say have suffered from years of under-investment.
The plans will not be published until the autumn, after a review into the £56billion HS2 has been carried out.
Mr Johnson said local people would take the lead on the ‘exact proposal’ they want, which could be a brand new route, or new tracks laid alongside existing lines.
He will say: ‘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 the exact proposal they want, but I have tasked officials to accelerate their work on these plans so that we are ready to do a deal in the autumn.’ In stark contrast, Mr Johnson has ordered a six-week review of the HS2 high-speed link between London and the North due to concerns over spiralling costs.
Several members of his cabinet, including housing minister Esther McVey, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss have also expressed serious concerns about Britain’s biggest ever infrastructure project.
The rail project’s new chairman Allan Cook is reported to have recently warned officials in Whitehall that it could bust its £56billion budget by up to £30billion.
In the coming days, Mr Johnson is also expected to travel to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a bid to counter criticism that his hardline stance on Brexit could pose a threat to the Union.
Mr Johnson is also drawing up plans for a major new fund to improve life in Britain’s ‘left-behind towns’
Yesterday Downing Street confirmed that he had followed through on his campaign pledge to change the Prime Minister’s formal title to include the additional responsibility ‘Minister for the Union’.
‘It is a statement of his commitment to the strengthening of the Union and the value he places upon it,’ a spokesman said.
In calls with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford, Mr Johnson was warned he would face stiff resistance if he sought to leave the EU without an agreement with Brussels
In calls with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford, Mr Johnson was warned he would face stiff resistance if he sought to leave the EU without an agreement with Brussels.
Mr Drakeford made it ‘emphatically clear’ that a No Deal Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ and cause ‘profound damage’, a spokesman for the Welsh First Minister said.
Miss Sturgeon reiterated the Scottish government’s ‘strong opposition’ to a No Deal Brexit and urged the Prime Minister to change course.
Mr Johnson has made clear that he intends to get the UK out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal.
Mr Drakeford’s spokesman said: ‘The First Minister told the Prime Minister that, whilst we would continue to prepare as best we could for a No Deal Brexit, no preparation would ever wipe away the profound damage a No Deal Brexit would have.’
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: ‘The First Minister congratulated him on his appointment before reiterating the Scottish government’s strong opposition to a No Deal Brexit.
‘She confirmed that the Scottish government will continue to make every possible preparation for No Deal as long as it remains a threat, but urged the Prime Minister to change course and avoid this.’