Transport for the North (TfN) will allow the North of England to speak in unison on transport spending priorities, chief executive Barry White told New Civil Engineer ahead of its first meeting as a statutory body.
Northern local authority leaders and representatives from Highways England, Network Rail and HS2 will be joined by rail minister Jo Johnson at the inaugural meeting of TfN as a sub-national transport body in Liverpool this afternoon.
Statutory status will allow the board to present its strategic transport plan, which will include proposals for a trans-Pennine Northern Powerhouse Rail network, to the Department for Transport which will have to formally consider the recommendations.
Speaking before the meeting, TfN chief executive Barry White told New Civil Engineer that becoming a statutory body will allow the North to “speak in unison” which will “give strength to that message as we give advice to government on spending priorities in the North”.
He said: “Transport for the North has been really successful working as a loose partnership, that arrangement has been in place for the last couple of years and has allowed us to get to where we are, but by moving onto a statutory footing it gives us that longer term permanent outlook, which is important, particularly when you’re planning infrastructure.
“Secondly it gives us the ability to issue formal advice to the secretary of state about the priorities for the North.”
Responding to criticism that TfN will have fewer powers than other transport bodies, such as Transport for London (TfL), White said: “We’re not Transport for London, we’re Transport for the North, we’re different.
“If you look at the powers the TfL has, and the powers that combined authorities have in the North, like Greater Manchester combined authority and Transport for Greater Manchester, the powers that local authorities have, and the powers that we have, I would argue that the powers we have collectively are greater or as great as TfL.”
TfN published its draft 30-year £70bn strategic transport plan, outlining plans for improved Northern connectivity, in January this year.