Transport for the North has called for a new railway line connecting Liverpool to the proposed HS2 route, along with “significant sections” of new line between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.
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, tasked with improving connectivity across the North.
TfN is due to announce its Northern Transport Strategy in March 2016, and yesterday published an update of progress, outlining its vision to “create a unified, single economy across the region” through “a comprehensive package of transport measures”.
As part of its planned Northern Powerhouse Rail strategy, TfN said that improvements had to be made to the frequency of trains, passenger capacity and journey times. In particular, initial findings indicated that “entirely new lines, or in some cases major bypasses and cut-offs” may be needed.
Between Liverpool and Manchester TfN is investigating using the planned high-speed rail infrastructure to improve journey times, and said that without a new line connecting Liverpool to HS2 there is “little or no scope” to achieve its vision.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced yesterday that the HS2 extension to the North would arrive in Crewe six years earlier than planned, by 2027.
The report prioritised rail connectivity to Manchester Airport, with plans to cut journey times in half from Sheffield and Liverpool.
In its emerging roads strategy, TfN said that its focus was on investigating the viability of three projects; a Trans-Pennine Tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield, roads around the Manchester North West Quadrant, and the A66 and A69 North Trans-Pennine Routes.
A report on initial feasibility studies into the Sheffield tunnel, also published yesterday, said that it would be “technically and operationally feasible to construct”. Work on the economic case has now begun.
The publication of TfN’s Autumn Report coincided with the appointment of chairman John Cridland, and follows confirmation by the Chancellor in last week’s Autumn Statement that TfN will be granted £50m in funding over five years.
In addition, the Chancellor announced £150m to support the delivery of smart and integrated ticketing across local transport and rail services in the North.
Andrew Jones, under-secretary of state for transport, launched the report at Manchester Airport, and stressed the importance of the smart ticketing for revolutionising transport across the region.
Speaking to Place North West, he said: “The benefits of smart ticketing are huge, you only have to look at what happened with Transport for London and Oyster.
“We’re years behind that; Oyster has been going for 12 years. But a smart ticketing system across the North, that would be a real goal and we want to see that happen as fast as possible.
“We can’t rewrite the history of under-investment in transport in the North, that goes back years, and we’ve historically had a stop-start approach to investment. We’re trying to break out of that cycle, and that’s what the newly established National Infrastructure Commission is all about.
“The main thing concerning me at the moment is the new franchises for the North. People will see a real step change in their daily traveling, with more seats, better trains, and more frequent trains.”
The franchise winners are due to be announced before Christmas.