TfN Strategic Transport Plan: not just for transport's sake

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 19

Peter Molyneux, Transport for the North’s (TfN’s) strategic roads director, has been leading on the development of the seven economic Strategic Development Corridors – a key part of the organisation’s Strategic Transport Plan. RTM caught up with him to hear more about the plan’s development and how road and rail fit together.

Why is a Strategic Transport Plan for the north so important?

The north has for many years, and rightly so, highlighted the scale of the difference in investment between the region and the rest of the country – but we are now in a position where we can offer solutions, not problems. We’ve found that if we can improve connectivity across the region, particularly east-west, we will see almost £100bn and 850,000 jobs added to our economy by 2050.

With that in mind, our view is that it’s not transport for transport’s sake; it’s about how we can use transport as an enabler to grow our economy, improve opportunities for all, and make the north of England a place that realises its potential. That’s why a Strategic Transport Plan is important.

It’s difficult to predict what the right transport solution will be in 20 or 30 years’ time, but we can be much more assured about the areas we need to connect. The plan will provide that much-needed vision and framework by which we can use transport to transform our economy over the next 30 years.

What are the key parts of the plan?

A lot of work has gone into our plan. All the northern local transport authorities and local enterprise partnerships sit on our board and have been heavily involved in developing it with us along the way. That means that the plan includes a vast amount of evidence – from road and rail, to freight and logistics, and international connectivity.

After pulling together all that evidence, I think the plan can be split into three parts. The big one is Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), which will link up our major cities and our biggest airport in Manchester; this network will also provide additional capacity to improve rail services right across the north.

The next part is the seven economic Strategic Development Corridors, which will provide the evidence base to make sure the whole of the north benefits from investment, particularly our smaller towns and cities.

The last part is integrated and smart travel; that is fundamentally about the people who live and work in the north. It will make it much easier for people to move about using contactless payment, taking advantage of the opportunities that better infrastructure will provide.

That’s perhaps simplifying it a little too much! We obviously need to understand how our national parks and cultural assets fit in with our plan, and we need to make sure it is delivered sustainably and enhances links with spatial planning, for example.

But in truth, we’ll have delivered the Strategic Transport Plan and created a much better north of England for the next generation.

Where are you up to with NPR?

The NPR programme is moving forward at great speed. The team have worked incredibly hard to get the project into a position where we will be submitting the initial high-level Strategic Outline Business Case to the government this year.

It will be truly transformational for the north. At the moment, about 10,000 people can access four or more of the north’s largest cities within an hour. With NPR, that will jump to 1.3 million. For children who are in primary school now, we want that to be the rail network that improves their choice and opportunities when they leave school or university.

How does your work on roads fit with the rest of what TfN is doing?

No matter how much we concentrate on rail, the fact is that the majority of people and goods in the north travel by road – but we need to think about how they fit in with the wider picture.

For businesses, and particularly those in the freight industry, roads are often the main route to a port or airport. For people in more rural areas, roads may be the only feasible way to get from home to a rail station or place of work.

I also think that, at the moment, trains are by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to move a lot of people from one place to another.

But as technology improves and cars become smarter and greener, that may change. New technologies and working styles may mean that people travel less often but further.

What’s next for the plan?

The plan went through a very positive public consultation last year and is in the process of being finalised ahead of publication and submission to the government early this year. However, the last thing we want is for the 30-year plan to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

We can pull together the best plan in the world, but if it doesn’t get delivered then it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. As we’re now a statutory body, we know the plan will have to be taken into consideration by government when making transport investment decisions, and that’s really important.

Beyond that, it is our job to make sure the plan stays a priority, is a go-to document, and provides a compelling argument for investment. That includes us, our partners, the government, the supply chain, and businesses.

If we all work together and speak with one voice, I really do believe that we will deliver the investment programme and transform the north.


Peter will be taking part in a leaders debate on Transport and Connectivity across the Northern Powerhouse at this year's EvoNorth event. Don't miss your chance to attend, visit the website here.


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