Bringing trams to Bolton is “still to play for” despite revelations some of the multi-billion pound “Network North” funding will be spent in the south.

The £38bn government fund was intended to improve transport links across the north of England, with one such potential project being extending Metrolink tram services to Bolton.

This was thrown into doubt first by a report branding it “poor value for money” and then documents revealing part of the money will in fact be spent in areas like London and Devon.

Dr Paul Salveson, visiting professor of at the University of Bolton, said: “There is still the money there, and as far as I am aware it is Transport for Greater Manchester, quite rightly, that is the body that is looking at how to spend it.

He added: “Clearly they will have their eye on Metrolink extension.”

The Bolton News: Bringing the Metrolink to Bolton was named in an illustrative reportBringing the Metrolink to Bolton was named in an illustrative report (Image: Newsquest)

The money was made available after the government’s surprise decision to scrap the northern leg of the HS2 superfast railway link from Birmingham to Manchester.

But the wide range of schemes, including the Bolton Metrolink, was thrown into doubt within days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed they had simply been “illustrative".

Further doubt was cast by a Transport for Greater Manchester report branding schemes to extend tramlines into the town “poor value for money.”

Now debates in the House of Lords have heard how despite being names “Network North”, some of the promised money will be spent in areas in Southern England.

But Dr Salveson says leaders in Bolton still need to make the case for the borough’s transport needs.

He said: “The whole thing is clearly totally politically motivated and is about spending in certain marginal constituencies.”

He added: “Certainly we keep being told that the money is there and at the Department for Transport there have been moves behind the scenes to look at how it could be spent.

“There is still everything to play for in terms of getting Metrolink to Bolton but I think its down to our local councillors to put pressure on the Department for Transport, on the combined authority and on Andy Burnham to make it happen.”

But opposition figures have proven to be less optimistic about what the government’s plans could mean for Bolton.

Bee Network committee member Cllr Sean Fielding said: “Perhaps it’s because whenever he goes anywhere, Rishi Sunak gets taken by helicopter, so he doesn’t know which direction he’s travelling in.

"Perhaps the geography teaching at his expensive private school wasn’t up to much.

"Whichever it is, neither is a particularly good excuse for not knowing where the north is and labelling an investment programme which puts money in to Plymouth, London and Bristol as ‘Network North.’

"The truth is that the Conservative government he leads has failed on transport investment in our region.

"Railway electrification has been delayed, HS2 isn’t coming any more and our roads are crumbling because councils are starved of the cash to fix them.

"Local politicians are doing what they can, like Andy Burnham’s £2 bus fare cap, but we need a change of government to one willing to truly invest, if we want to see our infrastructure properly modernised and brought up to scratch.”

At the House of Lords, Baroness Ann Taylor, MP for Bolton West from 1974 to 1983, queried why Southern areas had been included in a document named “Network North".

She asked if the transport minister would “arrange for himself and his colleagues to have geography lessons?”

But the government says that significant investment would still be made in northern areas like Bolton.

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Responding to Baroness Taylor’s “geography lessons” comment, transport minister Lord Davies of Gower said: “I happen to have an O-level in it.”

He added: “Every penny of the £19.8bn committed to the northern leg of HS2 will be reinvested in the North.

“Every penny of the £9.6bn committed to the Midlands leg will be reinvested in the Midlands.

“And the £6.5bn saved through our rescoped approach at Euston will be spread across every other region in the country.”