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Transport for the North to get more powers

Words: Laura Edgar
M6. junction 20 / iStock_000000046889

Transport minister Jesse Norman has announced that new legislation aimed at transforming Transport for the North (TfN) into the first statutory sub-national transport body has been laid before Parliament.

Backed with £260 million of government money, TfN will provide the infrastructure needed to drive economic growth, create jobs and boost skills.

The government said the move to put TfN on a statutory footing means it must formally consider any recommendations made.

At the same time, the Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded £18.5 million from a £150 government fund for TfN’s smart ticketing programme. This will be used to introduce paperless, smart card season tickets for Northern and TransPennine Express, and Merseyrail passengers by the end of 2018.

Norman said: “These new powers will give TfN far greater influence over national infrastructure decisions, as well the certainty they need to plan and drive forward projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and smart ticketing.”

John Cridland, independent chair of TfN, said: “TfN gaining statutory status is an important step towards transforming the North of England and giving it the voice and powers it needs to move forward. To have the statutory instrument laid before Parliament is a tremendous achievement, having secured the support of 56 local authorities including all 19 of our constituent authorities. We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners to transform the region’s infrastructure and grow the UK economy.”

Cridland noted that making TfN a statutory body means the transport secretary will have to take into the North’s priorities when making transport infrastructure investments.

He said priorities would be developed collaboratively and TfN is currently working with partners to finalise the draft strategic transport plan, which will be published for public consultation early next year.

“This is a 30-year transport strategy for the North that will help drive economic growth in the region and help to rebalance the UK economy – statutory status will ensure this plan is considered as a formal statutory document that can provide a solid, evidenced-based framework for transport investment in the North over the coming decades.”

The move means that from April, TfN will get a series of new powers, including:

  • Being able to fund organisations to deliver transport projects.
  • Working with local authorities to fund, promote and deliver road schemes – and be consulted on rail franchises in the North.
  • Taking forward smart ticketing to bring in faster, easier rail travel.

Rail North, an association of local authorities – including all the TfN members and Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottingham and Stoke-on-Trent will also formally become part of TfN and work with government to co-manage the Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises.