Business leaders in Cumbria have added their voices to demands for the new Government to deliver over £40 billion to improve northern infrastructure and boost the region’s economy.

Business leaders from across the North of England have today called on the Government to commit to a Northern Budget to fund a raft of projects.

The call was backed by members of Transport for the North’s Board and asked the Government to deliver on commitments previously promised as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

It comes just days after the Chancellor announced a fast-tracked spending round for Government departments for the next year.

The three core requests are a commitment to a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline – a list of “shovel-ready” road and rail projects to be delivered by the mid-2020s - construction of the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail network by 2040 and £1bn of funding for Transport for the North over the next three years.

Cumbrian projects contained within the Northern Infrastructure Pipeline include the Grizebeck Bypass, in south Cumbria, and the Carlisle Southern Relief Road.

Barry Leahey MBE, chair of the Cumbria branch of the Institute of Directors, said the improvements needed to be seen in a global context.

“We have got to be able to compete on a global stage,” said Barry, who is also managing director of global exporter Playdale Playgrounds, in Haverthwaite, near Ulverston.

“And the biggest opportunity for improvement in the UK comes from the North.

"We have got a larger potential gain because of years of under-investment.

"If you can lift the North’s productivity by improving its infrastructure it gives us a fighting chance to compete in the UK markets and global markets.

"We want to push the Government and say we’ve got to make this happen. I think the Government are in listening mode and I think they would be crazy not to listen at this point in time.”

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce chief executive Rob Johnston said the body would apply pressure via local parliamentarians and national lobbying to try and ensure the Government delivered the projects.

“It needs all of us in the North to get behind this and use whatever channels we can,” he said.

The News and Star has joined other northern newspapers and websites produced by parent group Newsquest, as well as publishers JPI Media and Reach, to back the Power up the North campaign.

It is calling on Britain’s political leaders to back measures to close the North-South divide.

Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North, said: "We now need a Northern Budget to make both the shovel-ready projects and the ambitious longer-term programmes like Northern Powerhouse Rail a reality.

“Closing the productivity gap between North and South is essential if we’re to compete on a global stage – but the North’s constrained by creaking infrastructure.

“These are the minimum requirements needed to overturn the underinvestment, under different Governments, stretching back decades.

"It’ll ensure the North becomes greater than the sum of its parts and will get the UK firing on all cylinders.

“Whilst the Government is planning for a one-year spending round for its departments against a Brexit backdrop, there is no reason why we can’t see real commitment and recognition of the ambitious pipeline of infrastructure investments the North so badly needs.”