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Transport investment plan for the North published

Words: Laura Edgar

A £13 billion blueprint showing how the government plans to invest in transport to press forward with the Northern Powerhouse has been published.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said £13 billion of investment was already scheduled, including rail upgrades around Manchester and work to tackle bottlenecks on roads. The government will also develop plans for a new cross-Pennine route.

Improving links that “bind the North together”, the government said, is “integral” to creating a Northern Powerhouse.

Projects underway include a scheme to electrify the rail link between Manchester, Bolton and Preston by the end of 2016, while work to electrify lines between Manchester, Liverpool and Wigan has already been completed.

Both High Speed 2 and TransNorth east-west rail links would be constructed in the longer term to transform city-to-city rail connectivity, said McLoughlin.

“This one-nation government is determined to close the economic gap between North and South. Investing in transport – something that successive governments have failed to do sufficiently – is vital to making that happen.

“Across the North, that investment is already having a huge impact, with programmes under way to upgrade our railways and our roads. We are determined to keep the momentum going.”

Lord O’Neill, the Treasury’s commercial secretary, said transport infrastructure was a key part of the commitment.

“Our investment is helping to better connect the region, building a strong Northern economy, and it is great to see the huge progress already under way.”

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said that strengthening transport links between Northern cities was absolutely critical to boosting their local economies - and helping the UK compete globally. Without better links, she continued, these cities and the wider regions won’t be able to “fulfil their economic potential”.

Attention must now shift to the delivery of these plans, said Jones.

“Northern city regions must be empowered to play a leading role in ensuring national investment helps support an integrated, co-ordinated transport system that meets the needs of residents and businesses across the North. That means delivering substantial devolution deals for city regions across the region, which include strategic transport powers and provide places with funding certainty over the long term.”

Image courtesy of the Conservative Party