Boris Johnson has visited the site of a new tram line funded by Greater Manchester’s devolution deal as he pledged to improve transport links in towns across the country.
Mr Johnson was in Manchester to pledge funding for a new rail link between the city and Leeds, and to improve infrastructure in 100 towns with a £3.6 billion fund.
The PM also promoted giving greater powers to local authorities after seeing first-hand the new £350 million tram link that will give access to more than 1,300 businesses and 35,000 employees in the area.
Mr Johnson donned a hard hat, hi-vis jacket and safety boots for the visit to the Trafford Park Line at the existing Pomona tram stop.
He heard that the new Metrolink line, paid for with funding from the Government as part of Greater Manchester’s devolution deal, will extend the current Eccles tram line from the city centre to the Trafford Centre, a huge retail and entertainment venue outside the city.
The 5.5km line will include six new stops, servicing the Trafford Park business area and popular visitor destinations, including Old Trafford football stadium, the Imperial War Museum North and EventCity.
A spokeswoman for Transport for Greater Manchester said: “This is great for retail and great for people to get to jobs. Trafford Park has not previously had great access but this will transport people to work and to leisure facilities in the area as well.
“It’s going to really open it up and provide access to all of those things.”
The spokeswoman said the line is due to open in 2020.
She added: “The track is all pretty much laid now, right up to the Trafford Centre. We’re going into the testing stage very shortly and expecting to be up and running early next year.”
During the 10-minute visit, Mr Johnson spoke to bosses from Transport for Greater Manchester and Transport for the North and met with construction workers.
He asked a number of questions before leaving the site by jumping up on to the tram track and balancing along the edge to the exit.
Later, during a speech at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the PM promoted the idea of devolution.
He said: “Taking back control doesn’t just apply to Westminster regaining sovereignty from the EU. It means our cities and counties and towns becoming more self-governing.
“It means people taking more responsibility for their own communities. London and Manchester have boomed partly because they have had mayors – some better than others, I would say – but all with the power to speak for their cities, to bang heads together, to get things done.”
He added later in his address: “I have seen myself the changes that you can bring about in towns and cities and regions, when local people have more of a say over their own destinies.
“So we are going to give greater powers to council leaders and to communities.
“We are going to level up the powers offered to mayors so that more people can benefit from the kind of local government structures seen in London and here in Manchester.”