HS2

18.03.19

Ashington Blyth and Tyne line reopening mulled over in six ‘quick win’ rail projects for northern transport

A series of ‘quick wins’ have been identified to fix the “current crisis” in the north’s transport network in a report by the IPPR.

Following the publication of Transport for the North’s (TfN) Strategic Transport Plan (STP), the IPPR said a potential future business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) had been identified, but TfN and transport authorities also need short-term success.

The report identifies six so-called ‘quick wins’ which it states can deliver real economic, fiscal, social and environmental benefits by 2025 at the latest and ideally by 2020.

These include the reopening of the Ashington Blyth and Tyne rail line for passenger services, which the IPPR called a realistic proposal bringing social and economic benefits to the north east.

Northumberland County Council welcomed the think tank’s recommendation, stating that reintroducing passengers’ services to the current freight line could boost the economy by up to £70m and achieve more than 800,000 annual return journeys by 2038.

The council’s leader Peter Jackson said it was “fantastic” that the IPPR had recognised the wider economic importance of the scheme, and said the authority was aiming to submit an outline business case by the end of the year.

Other quick wins included a Leeds Bradford Airport Parkway rail station and Tees Valley rail interventions to improve the region’s infrastructure in three key locations.

The report said that whilst electrification is the top priority for the north, supporting the development of hydrogen and battery-powered trains is also important.

A new bridge across the Tees and integration of traffic management to improve air quality were the remaining two top quick wins identified in the report.

The IPPR said that these case studies reveal how centralised decision-making were dragging back progress in the north, adding that TfL and Transport Scotland have shown the importance of project development capacity.

The report recommended that a £400m project development fund be created by central government for TfN and also to be spent in conjunction with transport authorities.

It also said TfN should prioritise these quick wins alongside long-term investment plans such as the business case for NPR in order to allow the north’s infrastructure network to reach its potential.

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