The North’s sub-national transport body has called the chancellor’s announcement of funding to 'future-proof' the region’s railways a significant step forward to full Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Transport for the North (TfN) said the cash would ensure that as much of the North as possible benefits from the Government’s major investment in HS2 high speed rail.
Chancellor Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond told the Conservative party conference on Monday: 'I am announcing a further £300m to future-proof the railway network in the north, ensuring HS2 infrastructure can link up with future Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Rail projects while keeping open all options for services through Manchester Piccadilly.'
In a statement, TfN said: ‘Providing fast, frequent and reliable rail services across the North is vital to the economy of the whole of the United Kingdom. When planning the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme we have been mindful of the importance both of accommodating future demand and making the most of infrastructure investment that has already been committed, particularly HS2.
‘This announcement is a significant step forward in TfN’s plans for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It will enable much-needed transformational rail connections for the north to be delivered cheaper, faster and with less disruption.
‘We look forward to continuing to work with the government and partners to ensure that future growth in services is planned for when designing these vital connections. This will include further work on the arrangements at Manchester Piccadilly and we are pleased that the Chancellor recognises the importance of keeping all options open.’
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, called the total of £400m announced by Mr Hammond ‘a helpful start at better connecting our great towns and cities across the North’.
She added: ‘But the investment the North needs in its transport infrastructure runs into billions. Transport for the North are working on their plans for the whole of the North. Once they have submitted these to Government there will be an expectation of much greater levels of investment.’
The Treasury said that more than £100m for local road schemes to address congestion pinch-points would come from the chancellor’s £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund.
It will go towards 13 priority schemes in the North West, 10 in Yorkshire and the Humber and 10 across the North East, following a controversial competitive bidding process, with details of the schemes to be announced 'in due course'.
Officials said: ‘These have been proposed by local leaders who know their areas best and illustrated how this investment will be of the greatest benefit to local people to improve journeys and help support jobs.’
At the Spring Budget earlier this year, the Treasury said that out of £690m outstanding NPIF cash for local transport to be competitively allocated to local authorities, £490m would be ‘made available by early autumn 2017’.