£88bn blueprint to transform transport across the North unveiled

MINISTERS and Northern leaders and are setting out blueprints for the North’s infrastructure including a high speed network ‘TransNorth’ and major highways investment.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Northern city leaders will be unveiling a report from Transport for the North (TfN), a body set up to identify areas of growth in the transport sector.

TfN has created the first ever comprehensive transport strategy for the region, covering roads, rail, freight, airports and smart ticketing.

Estimates for rail improvements, including new routes between Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester and upgrades to existing lines have added up to a preliminary £88bn, though each were calculated as stand-alone schemes.

Cutting the time from Sheffield to Manchester to 27 minutes is estimated to cost up to £19bn, while a new Leeds-to-Newcastle line could come in at £14bn.

Plans set out in the report include slashing journey times between major northern cities with investment in high speed rail, developing new east-west road connections including a road tunnel under the peak district, and introducing Oyster-style smart travel cards and simpler fares across the North.

The Chancellor and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will be in the North West today to launch the report.

Transport for the North will expand its role to become a representative body for the whole of the North of England and will be led by an independent chair and the Government is making available up to £6.4m to support it. A total of £12.5m will be available to take forward development work initially.

Mr Osborne said: “Connecting up the great cities of the North is at the heart of our plan to build a Northern Powerhouse. This report has the potential to revolutionise transport in the North and we will work closely with Transport for the North to help make it a reality.”

Chris Hearld, KPMG’s North region chairman, called on business to unite behind the plans and to push the politicians to fund the scheme

“Moving these plans into reality should not just be a matter for our politicians,” he said.

“We all have a stake in the North’s prosperity so businesses need to speak with one voice, demonstrating our support for this transformation and its importance to our economy.”

Jon Turton, infrastructure director at KPMG in Leeds, added: “This degree of transformation held out by the report’s proposals will take billions of pounds of investment and a long term funding plan will be essential if we are to see these transport aspirations become reality and to start playing a part in driving improved prosperity.

“It’s therefore critical that prioritising significant funding, over and above the development capital referenced, is part of any new government’s considerations as it embarks on its expected comprehensive spending review.”

Cllr Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, also focused on the funding required to deliver the ambitious wishlist.

He said: “Leeds has joined with the other northern cities to share our local knowledge – we know what’s needed to boost economic growth and create jobs for people in our city and across the region, and will continue to work together to deliver the improvements we urgently need.

“What the people of Leeds and Yorkshire need to see now is not more strategies and options but for these announcements to be followed up with real money invested in real infrastructure with a clear timeline for when things will happen.”

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...