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'Stepping stones' approach to Northern Powerhouse

manchester picadilly station cropped

The process for developing transport infrastructure in the north of England has to be looked at as “stepping stones”, the head of policy and strategy for Transport for the North (TfN) said.

Jonathan Spruce said proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) will emerge by the end of 2017 in TfN’s Strategic Transport Plan. He added that TfN will lobby for any infrastructure upgrades it thinks necessary which fall outside the rail and road five-year funding cycles.

He added that TfN were looking at a ”holistic” approach to solving transport issues that hold back the north’s economic potential by working with partners Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 and the Department for Transport.

TfN, which was established in 2014 and is formed of 19 local transport authorities and 22 local enterprise partnerships, will develop and commission the infrastructure needed to connect the Northern Powerhouse.

Spruce said: “Towards the end of this year there will be emerging proposals on what the Northern Powerhouse Rail network looks like.

“And it’s very much a network, because it’s from Leeds, Liverpool, to Hull, all the way up to Newcastle. [It’s] different parts of the rail network.

“What TfN is now looking at is whether there are major upgrades needed, what new infrastructure is needed to develop the improved journey times between the key centres.”

He said TfN would build on projects already planned by their partners, such as the trans-Pennine route upgrade, and identify “where the gaps are”.

TfN’s research found that fewer than 10,000 people in the North can access four or more of the region’s largest cities within an hour.

NPR will cut the journey time from Leeds to Manchester, which is about 50 minutes at peak time, down to 30 minutes, Spruce said.

He added: “We have developed a thirty year pipeline of projects that will improve the road network. Some of those improvements would be things that Highways England would want to do anyway, so will come through their five-year programme.

“And some of the things with rail you would hope Network Rail would want to do as part of their five-year programme, so works on things like west coast mainline, east coast mainline, those main arteries which are important to the north.

“But there will inevitably be some projects that are out with those current cycles and we will need to make the case for those as one-off projects.”

The organisation applied for statutory status, which is expected to be granted this year, to advise secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling on northern transport priorities

The Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review, published by TfN in June last year, found that a “transformed” north of England could see a 4 per cent increase in productivity by 2050.

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