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Transport for the North calls for £70bn investment to connect region’s cities

Northern powerhouse graph v2 crop
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Council and business leaders have proposed a £70 billion set of improvements to transport links in the North of England

Transport for the North (TfN), which brings together local authorities and local enterprise partnerships in the region, has published a draft investment plan for public consultation.

The Strategic Transport Plan sets out how the body believes rail, road and other key infrastructure should be improved over 30 years to boost the economy in this part of the UK.

An investment of just over £2 billion a year over that period could generate £100 billion in economic benefits, according to the study.

Plans include a new rail line between Liverpool and the HS2 Manchester Spur via Warrington; upgrades to the lines to Hull from Leeds and Sheffield; investment at Newcastle, York and Manchester Piccadilly stations to boost capacity; improvements to the A590 and A595; and work on the M53 junctions 5 to 11.

Access to ports and airports should also be improved, said the report, which said a Trans-Pennine tunnel under the Peak District National Park would be poor value for money but could be replaced by a partially tunnelled route along the A628.

‘TfN seeks an increase in strategic transport investment over and above the level currently being delivered by Highways England and Network Rail in the period 2015-2020,’ said the report.

TfN said the Strategic Transport Plan would eventually become a statutory document, allowing the body and its partners to take the lead in developing the case for investment.

TfN chairman John Cridland 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.

‘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 ensure we meet that historic gap in investment.’

Hiro Aso, head of transport and infrastructure at design and consultancy firm Gensler, described the report as ‘impressive’.

‘Plans to invest in transport infrastructure is music to my ears,’ he added. ‘But although the plan works well on paper, it will be far more complicated to achieve in reality. However, the simplicity of the aim – to connect the great Northern cities – is crucial. Transport has the power to deliver an expanse of economic and social benefits – but it must be centred around the people using it.’

The simplicity of the aim – to connect the great Northern cities – is crucial

Aso said overcoming the mountains that divide the North of England would be the key to bringing the region together as one economy.

‘A significant trigger for proposed transport investment is to face the major challenge which comes in the shape of the Pennines – a physical obstacle often described as beautiful and inspiring, but ultimately an unforgiving barrier and something that has contributed to the dislocation of the economies we’re all trying to stitch together.

’I’m drawn to the physicality of that challenge, at the base of the political and economic deliberations.’

Transport for the north strategic plan 2018 map

Transport for the north strategic plan 2018 map

Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affiars Marie-Claude Hemming said a long-term strategic approach was critical to improve infrastructure, boost digital connectivity and overcome skills shortages in the North.

’TfN’s strategic plan sets out such a vision by calling for sustained, prioritised investment in the region’s railways and roads over a 30-year period that will transform the economy by improving the way both people and goods travel around the North of England,’ she said.

’This strategic plan is a blueprint for creating jobs, boosting connectivity, and delivering long-term economic growth. We look forward to working with TfN, the government and other stakeholders to ensure that the supply chain is primed to deliver on this vision.’

 A consultation will run until 17 April before a final version of the plan is submitted to ministers.

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