Chorley dragged into row between two senior Labour politicians over multi-billion pound public transport investment

Two senior Labour politicians have clashed ... over the vexed issue of train fares in Chorley.

Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 12:38 pm

The frankly bizarre dispute centres on a tweet from Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham bemoaning the price of rail travel between Newton-le-Willows and Manchester.

Mr Burnham, who previously represented the nearby Leigh constituency, was responding to chancellor Rishi Sunak's announcement that £7bn would be given to areas such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and South Yorkshire for projects ranging from tram improvements to introducing London-style improvements in infrastructure, fares and services.

He pointed out that a 15 minute rail journey between Newton-le-Willows and Manchester costs £8 and argued the North West region needs "London-level" fare prices.

But his seemingly inoffensive tweet, provoked a spiky response from Labour MP Neil Coyle, who represents the south London constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Mr Coyle accused Mr Burnham of making "cheap digs" at London before unceremoniously dragging Chorley into the squabble.

He said season ticket train fares from Chorley to Manchester are cheaper than those from Croyden to central London.

Why Mr Coyle used Chorley, which is 17 miles away from Newton-le-Willows, as an example is unclear.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

"It is *more expensive* to have a season ticket from Croydon to central London than Chorley to central Manchester," Mr Coyle tweeted.

"These cheap digs at London are inaccurate and need to end, not least for anyone interested in Labour doing well, or anyone interested in facts."

He was angered by Mr Burnham's earlier tweet saying "Public transport is so expensive in our part of the world" alongside a picture of a £8 train ticket from a journey from Newton Manchester.

"This is the cost of a one-stop, 20-minute journey," he wrote.

Chorley train station

"To be levelled up, we need London-level fares. Accept nothing less."

Mr Burnham later responded to Mr Coyle's barbed comments, saying: "It is not a “dig” at London to ask that people here get some of the good things London has got.

"But if that’s the way we’re treated when we dare to ask for the same, we will never win back the Red Wall!."

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The quarrel followed an announcement this morning from chancellor Rishi Sunak that many of the country metro mayor's are to receive more funding for public transport.

Labour’s Mr Burnham had called for £1 billion and put pressure on ministers during the Tory Party conference in Manchester earlier this month.

He had said that handing over the money for him to introduce his London-style Bee Network would make political sense for the Government, because Boris Johnson could blame him if it failed and take credit if it succeeded.

And the Treasury has confirmed Greater Manchester will be given £1.07 billion in next week’s Budget and spending review.

The announcement is also being touted as a vote of confidence in the devolution agenda as all those awarded cash are areas with metro mayors.

Mr Burnham said the funding was an “important first step” that “shows the Government is listening to the case that Greater Manchester is making”.

But he said that ongoing revenue funding would also be needed.

“As welcome as it is, infrastructure investment alone will not make levelling up feel real to the people of Greater Manchester.,” he said.

“That will only happen when the frequency and coverage of bus services are increased and fares are lowered to London levels.

“So we are now hopeful that the Government will soon build on this foundation and match this allocation with revenue funding to make our Bee Network vision a reality.”

Elsewhere, there will be £830 million given to West Yorkshire, £570 million in South Yorkshire, £1.05 billion in the West Midlands, £310 million in Tees Valley, £540 million in the West of England and £710 million for the Liverpool City Region.