Jonathan Spruce, interim director of policy and strategy at Transport for the North, explains how transport planning across the region is set to increase opportunities for all.
On Tuesday 16 January, I joined northern civic and business leaders to launch Transport for the North’s draft Strategic Transport Plan, which outlines how transport connections across the region can be transformed by 2050 to close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England.
Launched at six events across the region, linked to the North’s economic strengths in health innovation, energy, advanced manufacturing and digital, we are now giving the public the chance to share their thoughts on the proposals through a 13-week consultation.
There is a huge opportunity here to transform the North through potentially adding £100bn GVA and creating 850,000 additional jobs in the region by 2050, driven by modern transport connections that promote economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.
The plan, spanning 30 years, has been a team effort and shows that for the first time, civic and business leaders and transport operators are speaking with one voice to make sure the North fulfils its potential. We are really throwing down the gauntlet and making the case for plugging that historic gap in transport investment in the North.
We are proposing schemes that 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. This includes proposed road and rail improvements from the Port of Liverpool to the Humber Ports, via Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region. It is met with a drive 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.
Outlined for the first time is the emerging vision of Northern Powerhouse Rail that would mean more than 1.3 million people would be within 60 minutes of four or more major Northern cities, an increase of more than 130% on the current 10,000 people today. A rapid, reliable and resilient rail network accompanied by an updated Rail Strategy for investment in the North’s existing lines, stations, services and franchise operations, is designed to open up connectivity and accessibility.
We are working with Highways England and the Department for Transport on three strategic road studies: dualling the A66, major improvements to the Manchester North West Quadrant area and a Trans-Pennine Tunnel and associated road improvements, which means that economic centres and locations will be linked to drive economic growth. The major road network for the North, comprising around 7% of the region’s roads, is a focus of long-term investment proposals for us.
Matched by an integrated and smart travel programme, public transport passengers in the North can look forward to better choices and information about travel and the fairest journey prices.
With estimated costs of Transport for the North’s plan equating to less than £150 per northern citizen per year, or £2-£2.3bn per year, the investment priorities are now open to public consideration before a final plan is published later this year ready for ministerial consideration.
This is about more than just improved connectivity and opening up accessibility. Launching the plan in the same year as the Government’s Year of Engineering means that we can play a role in attracting school pupils to STEM subjects and trying to involve them in actually building this transformed North. For new graduates wanting to stay in the region rather than having to move to London for their first job, this plan will increase opportunities for all.