Business leaders in the North West have hailed Transport for the North’s £70bn blue print for transforming transport across the region of the next 30 years.
The size of the prize is vast, with improved transport infrastructure offering the potential to deliver a £100bn increase in GVA and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.
Included in the Strategic Transport Plan for the North, launched across six cities at noon today (Tuesday, January 16) are plans to cut rail journey times between Liverpool and Manchester and Manchester to Leeds to 30 minutes, and 26 minutes between Leeds and Sheffield.
John Cridland, Transport for the North chairman, said: “The North is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. We have vibrant communities, buzzing cities, five stunning national parks, an abundance of talent and a wealth of high-performing businesses.
“Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.”
Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the plan seen as key.
For example, the ‘Southern Pennines’ corridor identifies proposed road and rail improvements from the Port of Liverpool to the Humber Ports, via Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region, as well as strengthening cross-border movements into the East Midlands.
‘Connecting the Energy Coasts’ explores ways to improve travel between some of the UK’s vital non-carbon energy and research assets in Cumbria, North Lancashire, North Yorkshire, the North East and Tees Valley.
CBI managing director for infrastructure and people Neil Carberry described the plan as “a significant milestone in delivering the infrastructure that is needed to boost productivity across the whole of the North”.
“Their plans for improved connections between the towns, cities and economic centres that will drive long-term growth, reflect many of the priorities highlighted by businesses,” he said.
Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at Manchester-based commercial property company Bruntwood said the plan made a “truly compelling case for the transformational long-term investment the North needs to meet its economic potential”.
“The ambitious vision of much shorter journey times between the major cities would be an incredible driver of growth and would help the North deliver the skills, jobs and growth set out in Industrial Strategy.
“These city-to-city connections, delivered as part of a modern, efficient Northern transport network, would be truly transformative.”
Steve Gillingham, director for the North at construction company Mace said: “Today marks a landmark moment for the North – the first time the region has had a comprehensive and transformational vision to transform its economy through enhanced transport connectivity.
“This is an ambitious plan but one that is wholly achievable. It is encouraging to see plans for TfN’s flagship project, Northern Powerhouse Rail, set out in more detail.
“This project is more important to the North of England than one of our cities winning the Commonwealth Games or Olympics.
“The potential to ensure over 1.3 million people are within 60 minutes of four or more major Northern cities, compared to fewer than 10,000 people today would be truly transformational.”
Transport for the North is a pan-Northern partnership boad representing 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) working with Highways England, Network Rail, HS2 Ltd and the Department of Transport.
It is is set to become England’s first sub-national transport body in the next few months, with the legislation giving the body statutory status expected in Parliament shortly.