We are fast approaching the first real test of the Tories’ new-found love for the North.

What they decide on HS2 in Manchester and Leeds - as opposed to what they do for London - will tell us whether they mean what they say or whether it’s all just talk. 

I am not opposed to making cost savings on HS2.

There is a good case for that.

What I am against is making all those savings in the North, as a leak on Monday morning suggested.

That would be the same old story - a “money no object” approach to transport investment in the South as we have seen with the bail-outs for Crossrail - and a penny-pinching one in the North.

We can’t let them get away with that.

We cannot have a situation where there is a gold-plated railway service between London and Birmingham and a brass-plated one between the Midlands and the North.

That will widen the North-South divide, not close it.

But I am open to potential changes.

If Government wants to speed up the building of the Manchester to Leeds leg of Northern Powerhouse Rail ahead of HS2 - or start the construction of HS2 in the North - then I’m happy to have a conversation about that.

A protester keeps watch from a treehouse at a camp protecting a stretch of woodland and wetland in the Colne Valley Regional Park from being razed to make way for a planned high-speed rail link

But my starting point is clear - I am not going to be forced to choose between a modern east-west railway or a north-south one.

We need both, as well as ongoing investment in our commuter services.

I would urge people across the North not to fall into the government’s trap of picking one project above another. London has never had to do that so why should we? 

Nor should we buy the argument that links to the south don’t matter.

Rail services between England’s second and third cities, Manchester and Birmingham, are so patchy that most people will probably drive between the two.

But take a look at the M6 on any given day and you can only conclude that these two great cities deserve much better connectivity than what we’ve currently got.

If Britain talks itself out of building HS2, I think we will be making a major mistake.

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Go to Germany, France or Holland and you will see what a 21st century rail service looks like.

Spend an afternoon trying to travel around the Victorian railway infrastructure of Northern England and it’s frankly embarrassing.

Delivering both Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 will be a first step towards a rebalanced UK.

It is time for Government to stop promising us things we haven’t asked for - such as moving the House of Lords to York - and start delivering those we have.