Transport for the North – big infrastructure, big plans

Well it would certainly be fair to say that the Government and the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ have bold plans and big ambitions for Northern England and the role of major investment in transport infrastructure in that appears fundamental.  More details can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/revolutionary-plans-for-northern-transport-set-out

The promotional text (press release) describes it as “the first ever comprehensive transport strategy for the region, covering roads, rail, freight, airports and smart ticketing”.  You feel that perhaps undersells the goals and ambition of this work as well as only partially addressing how to develop a system that really does support the unification of a truly regional Northern economy.

The meaty tome can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414815/the-northern-powerhouse-tagged.pdf

References to the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad economic regions are appropriate (and not just for the North, there is an argument here for parallels with the Midlands as well…) and recognition that there is plenty of international experience and best practice to look at and understand – it therefore seems odd then that it has taken this long for the penny to drop with this Government (and previous Governments) and actually start to take action.

The significant emphasis on strategic rail and road networks is expected and logical; but the equally large emphasis on freight and the role of major freight trip generators in looking at the strategic network is sensible.

The smart and integrated section is also a welcome development although its focus on pretty much smart ticketing is a shame – but there is plenty of scope for this to be improved and developed over the coming months and years.

So will this Northern Transport Strategy and the emergence of Transport for the North?  Some are accusing this of being a pre-election stunt by the Coalition Government or as another grand plan full of major projects but minimal action and deliverables.

I reckon that is probably unfair – by founding Transport for the North and encouraging it, the genie is now out of the bottle.  The long-standing frustration of the cities that aren’t London is that the capital gets a much better deal which creates the virtuous cycle of London growing ever-stronger while the other cities are held back.  Well this strategy is probably the starting gun for real change for our major towns and cities – at least, we must certainly hope so!

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