Transport for the North sets out £70bn vision

United Kingdom

Transport for the North (“TfN”) has unveiled its final draft Strategic Transport Plan (“STP”) and Investment Programme. The Investment Programme sets out an ambitious vision for “transformational, inclusive growth” by investing in transport in the North of England over the next 30 years in alignment with the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review.

Delivering the Investment Programme

In order to deliver the Investment Programme, TfN will look to work closely with its Constituent Authority Partners, national Delivery Partners (Highways England, Network Rail and High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd) and the Government. The aim of the Investment Programme is to “provide greater certainty for Local Transport and Highway Authorities to deliver complementary investment” as well as to give businesses and SME’s in the supply chain “the confidence to invest and grow, plan interventions, build up their skills base, and collaborate across industries.”

Numerous interventions are set out in the Investment Programme with the aims of addressing the challenges currently faced by the transport network and seeking to futureproof where transport demand is envisaged. The report outlines across four tables interventions or packages of interventions that:

  1. Have been announced prior to the publication of the STP including those which have received approval (Table 1);
  2. Are currently in development by Network Rail and Highways England which TfN considers are needed and supports a delivery start date before 2027 (Table 2);
  3. Are additional to the interventions in Table 2 where evidence compiled by TfN demonstrates they could and should have a delivery start date before 2027 (Table3); and
  4. TfN believe evidence suggests there may be a case for delivery during the lifetime of the STP.

The year 2027 has been identified in Tables 2 and 3 of the Investment Programme to reflect the anticipated completion of HS2 to Crewe.

Some examples of the interventions outlined in the Investment Programme include:

  • Capacity improvements to accommodate longer and more frequent passenger and freight trains to, from and through Manchester including additional and longer platforms at both Manchester Oxford Road and Piccadilly (Table 1);
  • New dual carriageway link between the M55 and A583 to the west of Preston including a new M55 Junction 2 (Table 1);
  • Electrification works in the Sheffield area to support other major rail investment programmes (Table 2);
  • Capacity and journey time improvements to the Cumbrian Coast line (Table 2);
  • New road link between the M60 and the Manchester Airport Relief Road (Table 3);
  • Chester station passenger and rail capacity enhancements including Hoole Bridge and Chester East Junction (Table 3); and
  • Highway interventions to unlock employment and housing growth potential and to improve local and strategic connectivity across the north and west of Greater Manchester (Table 4).

Finance

Significant capital investment is going to be required in order to implement the STP between now and 2050, with the estimated funding required currently valued at £60-70 billion. Within this range, the value of the Northern Powerhouse Rail network is said to be estimated up to £39 billion. This highlights the key role rail is set to play in the growth of the North, especially given its propensity to move large numbers of people and goods between major centres. Although HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will bring about huge improvement to Northern inter-city links, a great deal of investment will focus on improving the “classic” railway network, particularly where journey times, frequency, capacity and reliability is concerned.

The report estimates the level of additional expenditure required to support “transformational economic growth”, above the existing investment levels, to be in the region of £21-27 billion over 30 years. According to the report, this equates to an average of additional strategic transport investment of between £700-900 million per year or in other terms, around £150 per Northern citizen per year until 2050.

The Investment Programme provides opportunities for private investment, including market-led rail proposals and combined transport and energy proposals.

Impact

As well as an expectation to contribute towards “transformational economic growth”, all interventions will be expected to improve opportunities and “protect and enhance the environment in which they are located.”

A multimodal monitoring, appraisal and evaluation framework will be developed by TfN to ensure the STP is delivered by the Delivery Partners and the Government as well as to help achieve sustainable growth and the Investment Programme’s objectives. As well as focusing on transport outcomes, monitoring will also consider social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Summary

The proposals set out in the Investment Programme are due to be ratified by TfN’s board on 7 February 2019. Once ratified, they will become TfN’s official statutory advice to the Government on the North of England’s present and future transport priorities over the next 30 years. TfN believe the programme to be realistic despite its ambition. However, given the precarious position of funding in the run up to Brexit, we will have to watch this space.

References:

Transport for the North Strategic Transport Plan and Investment Programme.

Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review