Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen cancelled his appearance at a northern transport conference on Monday.

Northern leaders travelled to Newcastle as they continue to campaign for improved transport services and connectivity while calling on the Government for greater investment.

Several Labour regional mayors, including North of Tyne’s Jamie Driscoll and Manchester’s Andy Burnham, attended to push for better transport infrastructure and reliability in the region.

Mr Houchen has previously praised cross-party collaborative working to deliver improvements in the region, but pulled out of the conference.

The Northern Echo: Darlington Station is one of many in the north to be affected by delays and cancellations Darlington Station is one of many in the north to be affected by delays and cancellations (Image: Contributor)

In a statement, he said: “I had been looking forward to attending the conference. Unfortunately, an important meeting regarding investment for our area came in at very short notice and had to take priority.

“I'm proud to have built a reputation for getting things done and I've done that by always prioritising jobs and investment opportunities, which will benefit Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, over a political get-together.

“I look forward to hearing what progress was made from officers who attended the conference on my behalf.”

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The Tory mayor, whose combined authority covers five Tees Valley councils including Darlington, has previously said HS2 rail would “deliver nothing to improve rail connectivity” in the Tees Valley.

“The whole project is a waste of money and should be scrapped in order to focus on improving regional rail travel,” he added.

Reopening the mothballed Leamside Line from Gateshead to County Durham was among the several local campaigns which revived prominent support among attendees.