IED responds to Transport for the North’s Draft Strategic Transport Plan consultation

Nigel Wilcock

The Institute of Economic Development (IED) has responded to Transport for the North’s Draft Strategic Transport Plan public consultation.

The online consultation, which closes on April 17, invites feedback on plans over the next 30 years to transform road, rail, sea and air connections to help drive long-term economic growth.

It explains the need for investment in transport across the north and identifies priority areas for improved connectivity.

Transport for the North became England’s first ever sub-national transport body, formally taking up its statutory powers, at a launch event in Liverpool this afternoon where Transport for the North chairman John Cridland hailed the enactment of statutory status as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ for the north to shape its own transport future.

In its response, the IED highlighted that Manchester to Sheffield is a similar distance to London to Reading, yet the fastest train is over 50 minutes (and drive is over 90 minutes); that the breadth of ‘the north’ means that road transport will continue to be vital and that too much traffic is funnelled onto the strategic motorway routes of M6, M1 and M62; and that the North West is isolated from the West Midlands because of logjams on the M6 through Cheshire/Staffordshire, which all need addressing.

IED executive director Nigel Wilcock said: “We are generally supportive of those policies and plans which have economic development, and sustainable growth, at their core and on this basis welcome the approach that has been taken in the development of the draft transport plan.

“Our principle observation, however, is that the framing of the draft transport plan could seize more of an initiative to be at the heart of some of the UK’s current economic policies.

“The industrial strategy is referenced throughout the document but the draft transport plan sets out how its plan ‘fits in with’ or ‘reinforces’ the approach – rather than how such a wide-ranging strategy might lead on some of the ideas concerning mobility to capture the economic dividend from such economic leadership.

“The Institute is also struck by the potential impact of Brexit on some of the under-performing towns across the North of England and the compelling argument that a post-Brexit economy will need to provide greater reinforcement for these local economies.

“These are economies which can be part of the re-balancing agenda but face the risk of further decline. This is an area that transport can help to address.”

He added: “As the UK develops a Shared Prosperity Fund, some of the concepts within the strategy could align with the future funding models and this is something which might be considered within the strategy, but is not currently picked up.

“Overall the IED is keen to support this initiative, and others like it, in as positive a manner as we can.

“The Institute is keen to maintain economic development as a priority for decision-makers and also make sure that previous strategies and policy initiatives are joined up.”

Additionally, the IED has offered to support any further work that is being carried out on the Draft Strategic Transport Plan – or on wider initiatives.