Marianne O Sullivan, Chamber transport policy officer on importance of connectivity.
Plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail are entering an important stage with Transport for the North submitting its Strategic Outline Business Case for Northern Powerhouse Rail to the Government before the end of this year. The Chamber are asking the Government to provide funding for these plans to increase connectivity and support economic growth across the North.
Northern Powerhouse Rail will increase connectivity between Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull. As someone who is reliant on public transport and regularly travels around the North by train both for work and to see friends, I look forward to reduced journey times and a more reliable service. The project will also create 850,000 jobs in the North of England by 2050 and an extra £100 billion for the economy. This increased connectivity will mean that more than 40% of businesses identified as having the North’s prime capabilities (energy, advanced manufacturing, digital, and health innovation) would be within 90 minutes rail travel of four or more of the North’s largest economic centres, compared with only 12% today. This will help to increase trade and collaboration across some of the North’s key sectors.
It is essential that the North East benefits from Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Chamber have been campaigning for the Government to support Transport for the North’s plans and ensure that upgrades are carried out on the East Coast Mainline to allow these trains to access the North East and provide economic benefits to the region. Improvements to the stations including Newcastle and Darlington will be needed as well as increased capacity along the line which is already struggling with the volume of passenger and freight trains.
Local rail connections to the Northern Powerhouse Rail will also be important to ensure that the economic benefits are spread throughout the region and not just to the cities.
The Northern Powerhouse Minister has admitted that there are large problems with transport in the North. Recent data from IPPR North have shown that there is still a large gap in transport spending between the North and London. Since the Northern Powerhouse agenda was introduced by Government in 2014, transport spending per person has gone up twice as much in London as in the North. Transport for the North’s plans offers the Government a key opportunity to invest in the infrastructure and help the region’s economy to grow.