Institution of Civil Engineers calls for overhaul of Northern transport

Following a call for evidence in November 2015 by the National Infrastructure Commission, the Institution of Civil Engineers has suggested that an overhaul of the North of England’s transport network is required to deliver the Northern Powerhouse vision.

Chaired by Lord Adonis, the National Infrastructure Commission is an independent body that was established in 2015 to review the UK’s infrastructure, recommending and prioritising projects across the UK. Its focus in the North of England is to assist with the delivery of better transport connections between key towns and cities.

The Institution has backed the Chancellor’s vision to boost economic growth through devolution packages in the North of England, but has suggested that there is a substantial amount to do for the region to compete in the international arena. They are calling for faster, more frequent transport services between cities within cities and for better connections to universities, science parks and manufacturing bases outside of these city centres. The Institution also calls for better connections between the North’s ports and airports that connect the region to the international economy.

KPMG’s Head of Infrastructure, Richard Threlfall, who chairs the Institution’s Northern Powerhouse panel has been quoted highlighting the historic gap between infrastructure spending in the North and South of the country: “The growth opportunity for the North of England is huge. There is much to be done; spend on new transport infrastructure in the North has lagged behind for decades.”

In the wake of Storm Desmond and Storm Eva, the Institution offered topical advice, suggesting consideration needed to be given as to how the North’s transport network can be protected from extreme weather.

On the face of it, much of the Institution’s evidence supports the existing Northern Powerhouse vision that Transport for the North is being tasked with delivering. Nonetheless, the calls for an entire overhaul may find their way into the National Infrastructure Commission Report that is due to be delivered in time for the March Budget. If so, this would put pressure on the government to at least maintain its funding commitments for improving the region’s transport.

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