Northern leaders publish transport plan to transform the region

Civic and business leaders from across the north have come together to publish Transport for the North’s draft Strategic Transport Plan. The 30-year plan is the first of its kind and outlines how transport connections across the north of England need to be transformed by 2050 to drive growth and close the economic gap between the north and the rest of England. 

Members of Transport for the North’s partnership board launched the plan today at six locations across the north which are linked to the region’s identified economic strengths. The public are now being asked to share their thoughts on the proposals through a 13-week consultation.

Aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy through a sustained 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, the plan could deliver a £100bn economic boost and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050. 

John Cridland, Transport for the North chairman, said, “Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving north of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life. For the first time, civic and business leaders and transport operators are speaking with one voice on transport to make sure the north fulfils its potential. Our plan proposes a revolutionary investment programme that will make it possible to travel to high quality jobs. This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the north and ensuring we meet that historic gap in investment.”

Liverpool city region mayor Steve Rotheram (centre, above) at the launch of Transport for the North's new strategic plan.

Transport for the North is working to make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region, improving access to jobs, supporting businesses and improving the movement of freight and goods across the north and to ports and airports. Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims. Alongside the ‘corridors’, Transport for the North has for the first time outlined its emerging vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a rapid, reliable and resilient rail network between the North’s six biggest cities and other economic centres. This is accompanied by an updated rail strategy for investment in the north’s existing lines, stations, services and franchise operations, reflecting the planned integration of Rail North into Transport for the North in April this year.  

In the short-term, Transport for the North has commenced a rolling programme from now until 2021 to introduce integrated and smart ticketing across the north of England, starting in major cities and across the busiest routes.  

Commenting on the strategy, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association said: “It is particularly exciting to see more detail emerge about Northern Powerhouse Rail, a transformative rail project that will connect the largest cities in the North to improve productivity and growth. Now, TfN - working alongside the government and various industry partners - needs to develop the business case for these improvements so that we can start getting spades in the ground - in order for both the region and the country to feel the economic benefits as soon as possible.”

The investment priorities are backed up by research that links the north’s prime capabilities in advanced manufacturing, digital, energy and health innovation. The cost of the 30-year plan is estimated to equate to less than £150 per northern citizen per year, or £2-2.3bn per year. 

This figure also includes spending which would already be expected as part of ongoing strategic transport investment in the north, with only £50 per person per year (£700-900m per year) additional spending. Regional spend figures issued by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority for the four years from 2017 calculated that projected government spend on strategic transport will be £1,039 per head for the three Northern regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber). 

Nasar Malik, director at professional services and engineering consultancy at WSP, commented: “We welcome the consultation launch of the plan and the recognition of the vital role a better connected transport system across the north will play in acting as a catalyst for transformational economic growth to reduce the north-south divide. Looking ahead, there will be challenges for TfN in relation to the prioritising, funding and delivery of major new infrastructure, but the plan is an excellent start to the longer-term delivery of improvements. We fully support TfN acquiring sub-national transport body status in April 2018, and we will continue to provide specialist expertise as TfN enters the next stage of consultation.”

"A major step forward in linking the major cities of the north." - Sir John Armitt

Commenting on the plan, deputy chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt (pictured above) said: “Today’s Strategic Transport Plan for the North marks a major step forward in the development of a single shared vision to reduce journey times, increase capacity and improve reliability on the roads and railways linking the major cities of the North. It will be important now for the government and TfN to work together and make rapid progress towards delivering the long-term transformation that the northern transport networks need, alongside taking short-term action to ensure passengers and commuters continue to see improvements in their regular journeys.”

Transport for the North is holding a wide-scale public consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan, running until 17 April 2018, with engagement events taking place across the north. A final version of the plan will be published later in the year and submitted to the government for ministerial consideration. 

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