The Northern Transport Strategy Spring 2016 Report was launched by Transport for the North and the Department for Transport in Gateshead on Monday.
The 33-page report sets out plans for transformative projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and Smart North – a system to help passengers switch easily between buses, trains and trams across the region while ensuring value for money. It also updates on some of the key improvements made over the last year across the region, with billions of pounds already guaranteed across rail, road and smart ticketing to deliver better journeys for passengers and support economic growth across the region.
Chancellor George Osborne said: “Improving transport links between the North’s major cities is at the heart of our plans to build a Northern Powerhouse. We created Transport for the North to help identify the priorities to connect up the great cities and towns of the north and to set out a vision to help us transform journeys for hardworking people.
“John Cridland [TfN chairman] and his team have made enormous progress in the last year and this is a welcome report which shows both the improvements we have already made across the Northern Powerhouse as well as highlighting the potential to go much further.”
Andrew Jones MP, transport minister, said: “This report and our huge investment in transport in the north demonstrate this government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.
“From smart motorways and rail franchising to potentially revolutionary future projects including Smart North and Northern Powerhouse Rail, our work is delivering easier and swifter journeys for passengers, and supporting jobs and growth across the region.”
John Cridland, chairman of Transport for the North, said: “Our vision to rebalance the economy will greatly benefit residents of the North and the United Kingdom as a whole. Looking to the future we’ll build on our research, which is underpinned by the first Independent Economic Review for the North, to devise a prioritised investment programme.”
The government said it is investing £13bn on transport projects across the North and issued a progress report for the past 12 months, in which ministers highlighted upgrades to sections of the M60 and M6 to smart motorways, electrification of rail lines and new Northern and TransPennine rail franchises.
There was no mention of HS3 by name – the high speed line between Leeds and Manchester that many would like to see – rather the “emerging Northern Powerhouse Rail network – an ambitious plan to link the north from west to east with a network of high quality rail connections”.
Work will continue throughout 2016 and into 2017 to identify where upgrades to the existing network are possible and new lines may be desirable.
The report states: “On routes between Leeds and Manchester, and Manchester and Sheffield our work to date has shown that we need to go further than committed investments in the existing railway in order to achieve our vision for faster journeys and more frequent services. We are therefore developing a range of options, including new lines, that look at how we could achieve our longer term transformational vision, as well as accommodate the anticipated growth in freight.”
Initial reports on two studies have been published which look at improving the road network in the North; one study is looking improving east-west road connections across the northern Pennines and another is considering how improvements to the transport network around Manchester can alleviate congestion on the M60, supporting growth in the region.
There was further mention of the previously announced Smart North ticketing system to simplify fares, reduce queuing times and help passengers switch easily between buses, trains and trams. TfN intends to roll this out step-by-step across the region. No launch date was set but funding has provisionally been set aside by Osborne to develop the new fare system up to 2020.
TfN represents all Local Enterprise Partnerships and all Combined Authorities and Local Transport Authorities in the north, with £50m confirmed funding over this Parliament. TfN is continuing to grow its capability and capacity towards statutory status by early 2017.
TfN was created in 2014 to allow the North to identify how best to drive economic growth through strategic investment in transport and allows the North to speak with one voice on key infrastructure decisions which benefit the region as a whole.
The Department for Transport, Transport for the North, Network Rail, Rail North, Highways England, Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and HS2 Ltd are working together to drive forward and deliver an integrated transport system across the north. This Spring 2016 report was a commitment made in the March 2015 report, The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North and updates work undertaken since the Northern Transport Strategy Autumn Report was released in November 2015.
The Chancellor has also pledged £150m towards the development of a pan-northern smart ticketing system and £300m to create a national Transport Development Fund to support development work for transformative transport infrastructure projects across the country.
The report said the “proposed TfN investment programme comprises the following inputs:
- Northern Powerhouse Rail…options analysis due in autumn 2016
- Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study (road)
- Smart North (simplified fares and integrated ticketing)
- Northern Trans-Pennine Routes Study (road)
- Manchester M60 North West Study (road)
- The current rail programme for the north of England (2015 to 2019)
- The future rail programme for the north of England (beyond 2020)
- First Road Investment Strategy 2015 to 2020 (North of England)
- Second Road Investment Strategy 2020 to 2025 (North of England); and
- Road, rail and other strategic transport schemes emerging from the Freight, International Connectivity, and Strategic Connectivity Local workstreams, of which there is likely to be a significant overlap with those schemes destined for inclusion in the rail programme for Control Period 6 2019 to 2024 and the second Road Investment Strategy 2020 to 2025.
“In developing the programme, inputs will also be provided, and findings and proposals shared, with the National Infrastructure Commission.”