Merseyside's political supremo Steve Rotheram has hit back at Government ministers after they accused northern mayors of “scaremongering.” 

Metro mayor Mr Rotheram was incensed after the Government announced earlier this week it was cancelling electrification of the Manchester to Leeds rail line while confirming support for London’s Crossrail 2.

The move caused an outcry with political and business leaders expressing concern. Influential think tank IPPR North immediately started an online petition in support of the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposal.

Secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry - who this week wrote to Wirral Council saying there was to be no financial support for rebuilding New Ferry - accused North West leaders of trying to make political mischief.

Mr Rotheram said they were missing the point: “Maybe something is being lost in translation but Jake Berry and Chris Grayling need to understand that this is not scaremongering but the expression of genuine and well-founded concern.

"The Government created this situation and the reaction across the North from politicians of all parties, business leaders and wider stakeholders reflects deep-seated unease about the Government’s commitment to economic re balancing.

"There has been a massive investment bias in favour of London and the South East and unless this is redressed the Northern Powerhouse vision is simply empty rhetoric.”

He has written to Mr Berry inviting him to attend a proposed "Northern Rail Summit" next month.

Mr Rotheram added: "I am inviting them so they can hear first-hand what people in the North think.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also expressed dismay over the cancelled project saying on Twitter: "On Friday Tories say they can't afford rail schemes in the North. On Monday, they find billions more for London. Are these 2 things linked?"

Here is Mr Rotheram's letter to Mr Berry...

Re: Northern Powerhouse rail/ Crossrail 2

I am writing in light of the Secretary of State for Transport’s investment announcements last Friday and on Monday, the controversy this has created amongst political and business leaders in the North of England, and your subsequent comments reported in the Manchester Evening News earlier today.

Whilst I appreciate you need to mitigate the fallout from Mr Grayling’s ill-judged intervention, I think it is wrong to dismiss concerns raised simply as ‘scaremongering’, especially when they have been expressed by the general public, businesses and organisations across the entire North and reflect deep and genuine concern about the serious implications of these polarising announcements.

If the Government had thought that Parliamentary recess was a good opportunity to bury bad news, a widespread coalition of interests in the North have signalled that we will not allow this to happen.

Devolution, City Deals and the Northern Powerhouse are all important and worthy initiatives, but ultimately they are only meaningful if the concept is matched by a determination to invest in the rebalancing of the economy the Government claims it wants to achieve.

The Government’s rhetoric needs to be matched by its actions, but Mr Grayling’s comments have been widely interpreted as evidence of ‘business as usual’ when it comes to the historic southern bias of transport investment.

Binning electrification plans for the North in one breath, and giving a green light for Crossrail 2 in the next is either politically naïve, or purposely designed to create a reaction. If the Government remains seriously committed to re-balancing the UK economy, then it should quickly reassert its manifesto commitment by re-prioritising Northern Powerhouse rail.

Private off-the-record conversations with Ministers designed to calm fears will not soothe the growing angst.

In a spirit of constructive dialogue, I would like to provide a platform for an announcement by inviting you, or indeed the Secretary of State for Transport, to attend a summit meeting with fellow leaders and business from all sectors across the North, which we intend to convene during August.

We see this as a transparent and positive opportunity to start inclusive engagement about ‘how’ and ‘when’ this crucially important national infrastructure project will be delivered.

I would be grateful if you could confirm your willingness and availability to attend the proposed event. We are currently looking at dates between 23rd and 30th August, but are quite willing to be flexible in order to facilitate attendance by a member of the Government.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Rotheram,

Metro Mayor, Liverpool City Region.