The much anticipated 30-year plan from new statutory transport body Transport for the North (TfN) has been launched.
Calling for sustained prioritised investment in the region’s railways and roads over a 30-year period, the draft Strategic Transport Plan (STP) aims to improve the way both people and goods travel around the North of England.
Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the Plan. For example, the ‘Southern Pennines’ corridor identifies proposed road and rail improvements from the Port of Liverpool to the Humber Ports, via Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region, as well as strengthening cross-border movements into the East Midlands, whilst ‘Connecting the Energy Coasts’ explores ways to improve travel between some of the UK’s vital non-carbon energy and research assets in Cumbria, North Lancashire, North Yorkshire, the North East and Tees Valley.
Alongside the ‘corridors’, TfN has 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.
Building on its first Freight and Logistics Report, published in September 2016, TfN has also identified improved connections and demand for freight and logistics, including a possible freight-only rail route across the Pennines aimed at reducing the reliance on road transport between between the Humber ports and Liverpool.
John Cridland, TfN 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. Our plans would revolutionise travel around the North, particularly East–West links which have previously not received enough attention, and, by extension, will improve how the region does business.
“For decades, the North has underperformed compared to the rest of England. Robust evidence shows that investing in quality infrastructure, as well as in other important areas such as education, skills development and research, could lead to more than 850,000 additional jobs in the North by 2050 and £100 billion additional Gross Value Added.
“Although what we’re looking at is investment in our roads and railways, this isn’t just about transport. It’s about ensuring that the North of England is a thriving region where people can learn, build a career and enjoy an excellent quality of life.”
The Road Haulage Association welcomed the announcement but said it was still to be convinced that the plan will be able to deliver its aim of closing the economic gap between the North and the rest of England by 2050.
“Any announcement about plans to invest in transport infrastructure is good news,” said RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett. “But as always, the devil is in the detail.
“Will the proposed funding model go far enough to stimulate the growth needed to bridge this historical gap?
“An extra £700-900 million a year investment might sound like a lot, but we still don’t know what the changes to the road network to accommodate future generations of vehicles is going to cost. So we need to understand how robust this plan will be against competing demands for funding.”
A public consultation on the draft plan runs until April 17. A final version of the plan will be published later in the year and submitted to the Government for ministerial consideration.
Posted on: January 16th 2018