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AS2015: Northern transport moves up Government agenda

George Osborne promised a £13bn investment into Northern transport over the next five years in his combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review, fleshing out earlier announcements and emphasising cross-regional connectivity.

Echoing many initiatives mentioned in his Summer Budget in July, Osborne dedicated £50m to fund Transport for the North over five years, promised £150m to advance the introduction of an Oyster-style smart and integrated ticketing system, and highlighted the importance of the electrification of the TransPennine railway line between Manchester and Leeds, which was halted and then restarted earlier this year. In the Summer Budget, Osborne promised an interim report on priority east-west rail and road projects, which is yet to materialise.

The Autumn Statement confirmed £350m towards the Metrolink extension to Trafford Park in Manchester, which was first announced as part of Manchester’s devolution deal in November 2014, and allocated £300m over the next five years for a Transport Development Fund for infrastructure projects, which “could include providing development funding for projects such as Crossrail 2 and proposals emerging from the Northern Transport Strategy”. However, the specific projects receiving funding from this pot are due to be announced in the Budget 2016.

The Chancellor created a £475m Local Mayors Fund over the next five years to fund large transport projects, for local areas to bid for funding for projects that would be too expensive for them to pay for by themselves.

Regions with elected mayors as part of their devolution deals have been given the power to levy business rates to pay for local infrastructure projects. In Greater Manchester a mayor is not due to be elected until 2017, and other areas still negotiating devolved powers from the Government might have to wait even longer.

Nationally, the Chancellor said that the Government would invest more than £100bn in infrastructure, and extended the availability of the £40bn UK Guarantees Scheme to March 2021, to help infrastructure projects raise finance from banks and the capital markets.

Osborne again referenced starting construction on the High Speed 2 rail link, however no start date was confirmed.

Osborne promised more than £5bn on roads maintenance, a £250m fund to tackle potholes, and said that the Government would fully deliver the £114m Cycle Ambition City scheme which includes 56 kilometres of new cycle lanes in Manchester.

Around £13.4bn of previously committed funds were included for a Roads Investment Strategy, which “aims to resurface more than 80% of the strategic road network”. Investment into roads will be supported by revenues from Vehicle Excise Duty from 2020-21, which Osborne announced in his Summer Budget.

The Government has set up a National Infrastructure Commission to advise on infrastructure priorities. Based on advice from the NIC, the Government will publish a National Infrastructure Delivery Plan next spring, setting out in detail how it will deliver key projects and programmes over the next five years.

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