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13.11.15

TfN will unlock major opportunities across city regions – Lord Adonis

The work of the budding Transport for the North (TfN) body will bring transformational change by making the sum of the northern city regions more than their parts, Lord Andrew Adonis said at TransCity Rail North yesterday (12 November).

The former transport secretary, best known for initiating the work on HS2, was a surprise special guest at RTM’s event at the Palace Hotel in Manchester.

Adonis kicked off his speech with a “very, very warm welcome” to the new transport body while David Brown, its new chief executive, watched from the audience.

Adonis linked the future work of TfN with the ongoing developments as part of the Northern Powerhouse, set to transform the connectivity between all northern regions.

This will partly come through work being done on new lines and either a “really serious upgrade” of existing lines east to west, or even a new high-speed line, already christened HS3.

He continued: “But it’s not just transformational change in the future. It’s by constant upgrading and improvement in the operation of common services, making them better, more elaborate, more frequent, and dealing with those bottlenecks which congest the system at the moment.

“All of these changes, incremental changes, will make a big difference and will help pave the way for the transformational change in the future. What we have to do over the months and year ahead is to be focused on constant improvements today – seeing that the passenger experience is better, that we apply new technologies, that we have ticketless and much more seamless travel, and so on.

“We need all of those things whilst also having an eye for the future.”

Adonis also noted that, as part of his leadership position of the new £100bn National Infrastructure Commission, he is working closely with TfN to develop a game plan for HS3.

Graham Botham, Network Rail’s strategy and planning director for the north, said that his team are working very closely with TfN and HS2 – whose chief executive, Simon Kirby, also sits on the TfN partnership board.

And Botham assured the audience that Sir Peter Hendy is fully committed to the new northern transport body, especially given that one of his first external duties as Network Rail chair was to attend a TfN partnership meeting.

12-11-15-349Left to right: Richard Westcott, Lord Adonis, Simon Kirby, Graham Botham, Alex Hynes, Philip Hoare, Amanda White and Nick Hughes

Rail leaders attending and speaking at the event echoed widespread support for the new group, which is already set to be transformed into a statutory body later this year.

Amanda White, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM)’s head of rail, and a member of RTM’s editorial board, said a large part of the body’s success will be ensuring cities work together and set ambitious targets. In relation to Greater Manchester specifically, she said showing progress is absolutely vital and models of phased delivery could be considered.

But perhaps the most outspoken TfN supporter was Northern Rail’s managing director, Alex Hynes.

Asked by debate panel chair Richard Westcott, the BBC’s transport correspondent, whether there is too much focus on big, one-off, “sexy” infrastructure schemes rather than smaller but necessary upgrades, Hynes insisted that both need to happen.

Indeed, he said, many such “little projects” have recently been completed, are being worked on now, or are coming up in the short term – such as the Todmorden Curve, Ordsall Chord and the electrification in the north west – dubbing them essential elements of TfN’s work. But HS2 and HS3 will be the real game changers to solve the “capacity crunch” in the north, he said.

When asked what he believed was the most important thing that had to happen in rail over the next year, Hynes said it was essential to help the northern body make a case for more investment.

But this seems to be on the horizon already, with Kirby guaranteeing that TfN is about cities and the wider supply chain working together, while driven by sufficient political support to move forward.

Within the chancellor’s Summer Budget 2015 document, it was stated that a chair must be appointed by the end of the 2015 to accelerate TfN’s work programme, with an update on the Northern Transport Strategy to be published by Budget 2016. 

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