COUNCIL leaders from across the North have signed a joint letter urging the next Prime Minister to commit to the delivery of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The plea, signed by Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, Craven District Council leader Richard Foster and Calderdale Council leader Tim Swift among others, has been sent to those battling it out in the Conservative leadership race.

Signatories have said that failure to invest will send a signal that "once again, the North has been overlooked by Westminster".

The letter says: "As a coalition of leaders representing 15.4 million people living and working in cities, towns, neighbourhoods and villages across the Northern Powerhouse Corridor, we have been following closely the range of views expressed about Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and HS2 by candidates during the Conservative Party leadership campaign so far.

"As a result, we are writing to all candidates to ask them to stress the importance of a coherent rail investment programme, encompassing immediate commuter capacity, HS2 and NPR, for both the future prosperity of the North, and to demonstrate that the next Prime Minister will be a strong advocate for, and a true partner with, the North of England."

The letter says there remains "damaging levels of uncertainty over both the appetite of any future government to approve the necessary funding to see NPR progress to its next phase and to secure the future of HS2 Phase 2b by delivering the Hybrid Bill in timely fashion".

It adds: "For the North, the question is not one of ‘either, or’. HS2 and NPR serve different but equally important and complementary markets.

"This isn’t primarily about costs, but about the strategic economic criticality of the capacity of our rail infrastructure to adequately serve local, regional and national requirements. Even so, without HS2, NPR’s costs will rise and its impact will fall. Without NPR, HS2 will fail to achieve its full potential.

"The economic case for HS2 relies upon Phase 2b being delivered to the cities of the North, and it is only through the full delivery of both HS2 and NPR that the North can see truly transformative benefits, north to south and east to west."

The letter says there is "no realistic alternative" to the delivery of both HS2 and NPR.

"The benefits to the North, and to the entire UK, of a clear long-term rail investment programme are huge," it adds.

"The failed delivery of last May’s timetable changes demonstrates that demand already exceeds capacity on the North’s rail infrastructure."

It says that a failure to invest in the railways and give certainty on the transformation to follow will hinder the national economy and will send a signal that "once again, the North has been overlooked by Westminster".