Andy Burnham claimed Tory promises to the north of England were just about winning votes as Rishi Sunak axed plans for high-speed rail to run to Manchester.
Mr Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said almost 10 years ago then Conservative chancellor George Osborne had spoken of new transport links and a “northern powerhouse” but the words had not matched reality.
Earlier, Prime Minister Mr Sunak, at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, finally announced the widely expected axing of the HS2 project from Birmingham to Manchester, citing a doubling of costs for the project.
Hours later across the city Mr Burnham spoke at a press conference, symbolically held at the Museum of Science and Industry, on the site of the terminus of the world’s first inter-city passenger railway, between Liverpool and Manchester.
“You may remember, almost 10 years ago, George Osborne came to the building just beyond here to tap into that spirit that the north of England had in the nineteenth century of pioneering and bringing new developments to the world, to say that he would bring forward a northern powerhouse that would be all about that ambition again for Britain, bringing north-south lines with HS2, east-west with HS3 as he called it then, that obviously became Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“You name it, we were getting it all.
“I hope those statements weren’t made 10 years ago just with political intentions in mind, to try and win votes here, but it’s starting to look very much that was what it was all about.
“Does this country have the will, within it, to actually prioritise the north of England?”
But Mr Burnham said scrapping HS2 to the north would not solve north-south or east-west capacity problems on the railways.
He said he and other northern mayors and business leaders would now work to salvage the plans to make them work for his and other regions.
He added: “That’s the job that’s ahead of me as mayor of Greater Manchester and that’s what we will be seeking to do.
“But it has been a highly frustrating week for us.
“I don’t see how you can take a plan that goes beyond the life of any individual government or goes beyond the interests of any one political party, given it goes all the way through the country, how you can take that plan and basically tear it up at a party conference.
“Surely this should be done on a cross-party consultative basis.”