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Northern council leaders urge Theresa May to press on with HS2 and invets in region's transport

Northern council leaders have told prime minister Theresa May that High Speed 2 is vital to reviving the region’s economy, amid fears the project could fall victim to any post-referendum downturn.

In a letter to Mrs May and relevant cabinet ministers, the councillors said: “We need HS2 to reach the North as soon as it can, supported by radically improved inter-city road and rail links across the region and significant investment in local transport plans to ensure every part of the region can benefit from these improved transport links.”

New transport secretary Chris Grayling has backed the high-speed line from London to Birmingham and then to Leeds and Manchester.

But the National Audit Office has warned that the project has an over ambitious timetable and could be delayed.

The letter, signed by all but a handful of northern council leaders and local enterprise partnership chairs, also called for greater local control over skills training “to make sure we have a workforce attuned to the needs of a growing economy”.

It pointed to the Northern Independent Economic Review, which has set out paths to improve the region’s economy through investment in the energy, digital, advanced manufacturing and health innovation industries.

“We hope you will commit your government to continue to work with us and to provide the investment…to make sure the North can achieve its economic, social and environmental potential,” the letter said.

Andrew Percy has been appointed minister for the Northern Powerhouse in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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