The Labour mayor has told her party a commitment to deliver the multi-billion pound public transport network “must be in your manifesto if you believe in the North”.
She said the pledge needs to be set out “in print” ahead of the next election as that will encourage private investors back the ambitious project, which promises to connect towns and cities across the region, including Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Huddersfield.
Ms Brabin wants construction to begin in 2028 so the public transport network, which is expected to cost more than £2bn, can be completed by 2040.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which Ms Brabin runs, is currently considering a number of possible routes, looking at how it can acquire the land that will be required and trying to decide on a mode of transport, as it considers trams, tram-train vehicles and modified buses.
“We are working with the opposition on their manifesto and making the case that if you invest in transport – these big infrastructure projects – and you put it down in print, you are going to find investment,” she said.
“We will not be able to do mass transit on our own and we will need private investment,” she added. “You bring in that cash by being confident.”
Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government has already promised to help deliver a mass transit system in West Yorkshire, but recent polls suggest that Labour will claim a comfortable victory at the next General Election, which must be held by January 2025.
Shortly after his party’s landslide election victory in 2019, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs he would "remedy the scandal that Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without light rail or a metro".
His government reaffirmed its commitment to building the network when it published the Integrated Rail Plan in 2021 and said services will be “operational in the second half of this decade”.
That plan also stated HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will be scaled back to save money, but Labour has repeatedly pledged to revert back to the original plans and build those high-speed railway projects “in full”.
The Government has already provided more than £200m that is being used to draw up detailed plans for the mass transit network and West Yorkshire Combined Authority is due to submit a business case requesting more funding next year.
Ms Brabin said: “This is about thickening the labour market where we can put people closer to jobs, training and opportunity and that is how we deal with our economic challenges.”
It is the third attempt to bring a mass transit system back to West Yorkshire, since Leeds’s tram network was shut down in 1959.
Plans for Leeds Supertram were abandoned by Tony Blair’s Government in 2005, due to concerns about the soaring cost, before a controversial bid to bring a £250m trolleybus network to the city was scrapped in 2016.
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has a healthy lead in the opinion polls, with some surveys putting them as much as 20 points ahead.
The Tories were hammered in recent by-elections by Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Selby and Ainsty and Somerton and Frome, with tough tests to come in by-elections in Mid-Bedfordshire and Tamworth following the resignations of Nadine Dorries and Chris Pincher.
But speaking last week, Mr Sunak said he was “entirely confident” that his party could reverse Labour’s poll lead, pointing to the way the Tories pulled off a surprise victory in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election in July.