Ministers now intend to give Transport for the North (TfN) statutory status in April – later than TfN had planned.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the move would would give the North ‘an unprecedented say on how money is spent on transport’ and underlines the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
Legislation to transform TfN into the first ever statutory sub-national transport body – with legal powers and duties – have been laid in Parliament. The DfT said that after being approved in Parliament, the legislation will be made into law by the end of the year or shortly afterwards and TfN will become a statutory body on 1 April 2018.
Leeds Town Hall, in the North
In March, TfN's chair, John Cridland, said it was 'looking to become a statutory body by the end of this year’. Only two weeks ago, TfN said it 'expects formal statutory status to be granted before the end of 2017'.
Transport minister Jesse Norman said: ‘We are committed to the Northern Powerhouse, and to giving the great towns and cities of the North more say over transport investment through their umbrella body TfN.
‘This Government is investing the most cash for a generation in transport projects for the North. These new powers will give TfN far greater influence over national infrastructure decisions, as well the certainty they need to plan and drive forward projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and smart ticketing.’
Mr Cridland said: ‘TfN gaining statutory status is an important step towards transforming the North of England and giving it the voice and powers it needs to move forward. To have the statutory instrument laid before Parliament is a tremendous achievement, having secured the support of 56 local authorities including all 19 of our constituent authorities.
‘We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners to transform the region’s infrastructure and grow the UK economy.’
The DfT said putting TfN on a statutory footing means that its recommendations must be formally considered by the Government.
It also confirmed an award of £18.5m for TfN’s smart ticketing programme from a £150m fund announced by the then chancellor, George Osborne in 2015. It said TfN will use this to introduce paperless, smart card season tickets for Northern and TransPennine Express and Merseyrail passengers by the end of 2018.
This appears to echo what has happened in the South East of England outside London, where attempts to introduce smart ticketing have so far mainly replaced paper season tickets with plastic ones.
The DfT said the remaining funding is available for proposals to extend smart ticketing across public transport in the North. A spokesperson confirmed that this is the first allocation from the fund.
From April, TfN will get new powers to:
- produce a statutory transport strategy for the North which the government must formally consider when taking funding decisions
- fund organisations to deliver transport projects, for example, this could include transport operators delivering smart ticketing in the North
- work with local authorities to fund, promote and deliver road schemes - and be consulted on rail franchises in the North
- take forward smart ticketing to bring in faster, easier rail travel