Pressure is mounting for a £15bn Government investment in a Transport for London (TfL) style body to ‘fire up’ the Northern economy.
A report from think tank IPPR North has today called on chancellor George Osborne to use the Coalition’s final Budget to fund a multi-billion pound refurbishment of the North’s ‘creaking’ transport network.
Creation of a new official transport authority - built out of the Transport for the North (TfN) alliance set up last year and led by major city regions - would see local authorities in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber and the North East taking responsibility for rail, road, sea and air transport and priorities for infrastructure investment.
A 10-year plan for TfN could include introduction of a contactless, cross boundary ticketing system and appointment of a transport commissioner for the North to act as a figurehead for local developments.
The body would be at the ‘vanguard of a coherent economic plan’ to invigorate the Northern powerhouse, the think tank said.
Significant steps to power devolution to the North were taken last year, with formation of Rail North and the Transport for the North partnership. Chancellor George Osborne also committed to seeing plans for High Speed 3 (HS3) drawn up by March 2015.
However IPPR North has argued that a £15bn investment in local infrastructure would now be necessary to ‘kick-start’ the process of launching a body such as TfN and linking cities that drive the local economy.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: ‘Northern transport infrastructure is dated, poorly integrated and lacking the large-scale investment it needs.
‘Devolving transport powers and budget to the North will help transform the region’s growth prospects and rebalance the economy. What we now need to see is the warm words on Northern growth translated into firm commitments to make this vision for a modern transport network a reality.
‘An initial investment is needed, but this is about the North shaping its destiny through devolution of powers. The Budget is an opportune moment to spell out the extent of the party’s ambitions for Northern prosperity.’
Responding to the calls, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, Stephen Joseph, said: ‘IPPR North's report shows how devolving transport investment away from Westminster can kick-start not just the creation of a modern, integrated transport network, but also one which is genuinely sustainable - reducing the reliance on cars and the need for controversial and environmentally damaging road projects.’