More studies needed before Transport North arrives

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin today commissioned a £12m year-long study to test ideas for investment in road and rail under the new Transport for the North banner.

A long wish-list of measures was published with the announcement today as McLoughlin visited Liverpool to publicise this latest part of coalition's blueprint for a Northern Powerhouse.

The list of recommendations which will go forward to be studied by the commissioners includes, in the Government's own words:

  • 20-minute journey times between Liverpool and Manchester on a new TransNorth rail network
  • 30-minute journey times between Manchester and Leeds and Manchester and Sheffield
  • Exploring the option to create a new rail line across the Pennines from Manchester linking with HS2 between Sheffield and Leeds to create a high speed network between the three cities
  • 140 mph trains between Leeds and Newcastle potentially cutting journey times by up to 35 minutes
  • Upgrading the M62 to four lanes along its entire length from east of Leeds to Manchester
  • M6 to become four lanes between Junction 16 Stoke on Trent and J19 Knutsford and between J21A Warrington and J26 Wigan
  • Upgrade A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle
  • Improving road links to ports in Liverpool, Hull and Humber
  • Bring forward High Speed 2 timetable to reach the North ahead of 2033 current schedule
  • Exploring the possibility of a major new road link under the Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester
  • Exploring options to resolve congestion on the M60 (junctions 8 – 18) and M62 between Manchester and Warrington
  • Taking immediate action to simplify rail fares across the North, eliminating the unfair price differences that exist at present
  • Drawing up proposals for a fares structure areas for an integrated northern travel area connecting the North
  • Aligning the different tickets and approaches in northern cities
  • Engaging with public and private operators of public transport to agree appropriate ways of introducing new technology

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, chairman of the TfN Partnership Board and leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Our cities are individually strong, and increasingly have the tools to grow, but by working together they can be stronger than the sum of their parts. But what is absolutely vital is securing long-term, cross-party support around our investment plans which run for at least the next 15 years, and the delivery can't change with every election."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "This dynamic change, led by the Chancellor with northern leaders, transforms the way government looks at transport solutions for the North. No government has given such attention to the infrastructure of our great northern cities and how to deliver a world-class, integrated transport network for the north. The proposals announced today will reduce journey times while increasing capacity and connectivity, enabling growth.

"Creating a 'northern powerhouse' of jobs, investment and prosperity, is a key objective of the Government's long term economic plan. We are planning for transport and growth in a new joined-up way. Today we set out a comprehensive strategy for the northern economy which will help the north pool its strengths. Transport for the North gives the north a powerful new voice."

TfN was set up by the Government in October 2014 as a partnership between the Northern city region authorities, Government and the national transport agencies.

To help deliver all this, a £12.5m development budget has been set to progress the proposals included in the report. An independent chairman for TfN will be in place by autumn 2015, memorandums of understanding will be agreed with Network Rail, High Speed 2 Ltd and Highways England in spring 2015 and the strategy will be updated in spring 2016, McLoughlin said.

He said the government was also considering making a multi-year commitment of funding to TfN supporting the vision set out in the report.

However, Ed Cox, Director at economic lobby group IPPR North, said the plans lacked funding commitment. He commented: "We support the creation of a Transport for the North body covering the three Northern regions – an idea set out by IPPR North before the Budget. But TfN needs to include all Local Transport Authorities and be led by a powerful transport commissioner, who can drive forward the northern transport agenda and be accountable to passengers in the region through a strong scrutiny committee.

"Further detail on proposed schemes is welcome, but the funding to make these plans a reality has yet to be allocated – meaning the Northern powerhouse still remains a laudable political ambition, rather than an engine of Northern prosperity it needs to be.

"Ultimately, five-year Northern infrastructure budgets need to be properly devolved to TfN as they are in Scotland, allowing TfN to determine its own appraisal processes and ending the in-built bias towards funding infrastructure schemes in London."

Transport for the North's report will be available from 11am today here

Your Comments

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Still no commitment to HS2 for Liverpool which is a no-brainer economically, given the short distance invololved and the fast link that could also be created to Manchester Airport, and then onwards to Sheffield, partly via infrastructure already planned. Yes, an independent Chair for TfN is essential, but the government needs to take the lead in plugging this missing link to Liverpool to make the cities of the north really interconnect in a dynamic way rather than in a Manchester-centric. The rewards will be greater for the north as a whole if the government grasps this nettle.

By Paul Blackburn

But Liverpool IS connected to HS2 in the current plans Paul.

By Reality check

True, Liverpool is connected to HS2 if you change at Crewe or go all the way to Manchester then change stations to catch a TransPennine back west. The Manchester-centric comment is entirely justified. At the moment, to re-connect HS2 to the west coast main line there is a branch off the new route near Dunham which crosses the Mersey Valley, the Manchester Ship Canal, the M62, and moves a landfill site before re-connecting the WCML near Wigan ; hugely expensive and all for the privilege of by-passing Warrington and making connections to Liverpool more complex. If this myopic government is truly set on improving north-south communication why not invest first in high speed broadband. Within the 20 years it will take to deliver an updated nineteenth century form of transport we’ll all be face-timing for business anyway !

By Stephenson George

Classic compatible HS2 trains will reach Liverpool. Claims that the city is not connected to HS2 are plain wrong.

By Reality check

No point even discussing it, we’re that far behind in this region / country that we’ll never catch up. Northern Powerhouse…the only Northern Powerhouse we’re getting is the gym in Warrington full of doormen and juicers (steroid users).

By OiYo

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