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Improved northern transport links must be integrated with local networks – TfN

Better rail links between Northern cities will only help improve productivity if they are connected with local public transport networks, Transport for the North has said in its Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review.

The report says that more must be done to bring the north’s economic performance in line with the rest of England. The value of goods and services produced in the north has persistently stayed 10-15% behind the rest of the country for the last 30 years, and gains made prior to the 2007 recession have been reversed.

The report adds that better transport links in the north, whether between cities, within cities or to other parts of England and other countries, would increase employment and productivity by improving access to areas of employment and attracting investment to a region.

However, it says: “While it is clear that improved transport connectivity can play an enabling role in rebalancing the economy and closing the performance gap between the north and the rest of England, it is impossible to put a figure on this and say ‘X £m of transport spending will close the performance gap by Y%’.”

It warns that the northern rail network currently suffers from “poor connections, low frequencies and complex fares as well as slow journey times”.

It says that enhanced city-to-city rail links such as HS3 will only improve the economy if they are connected with local public transport networks, for instance through smart ticketing with simplified prices.

A recent report from think tank Centre for Cities argued that Northern Powerhouse investment should be concentrated within cities instead of on transport links, saying that a relatively small number of northerners commute between cities for their jobs.

In contrast, a survey of delegates at the Northern Powerhouse International conference found that they thought transport investment was the top priority for building the Powerhouse.

The report also says that lack of surface access to airports is “one of the principal constraints” to northern economic growth. A recent report from the Transport Select Committee also criticised the British rail network’s lack of connectivity to airports.

Lord O’Neill, the commercial secretary to the Treasury, said that the review’s strategy for boosting the economy was more important than ever following the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

He said: “As the chancellor has said, the referendum result is even more of an instruction to deliver on our work to build a Northern Powerhouse and so it is hugely encouraging that the region’s leaders are working together to set out their long term priorities. We will continue to work together to make the North an even better place to live, work and invest in and remind the world that the region is open for business.”

There have been warnings that the referendum result may lead to a lack of funding for major rail projects such as HS2 and upgrades on the East Anglia franchise.

In November, RTM will be hosting the Northern Powerhouse Rail Conference (NPRC) which is the new companion event to the established and successful TransCityRail North networking dinner.

Taking place on the same day as the evening dinner, the NPRC will set the agenda for rail in the north of England. The event will highlight the economic bene­fits Northern Powerhouse Rail will bring to the region, as well as detailing what opportunities exist for the supply chain.

(Image c. Graeme Bickerdike)

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Peter Gordon   01/07/2016 at 14:17

A trip to the Netherlands or Switzerland will bear that out. Sometimes we seemed too concerned with top speeds and not enough with door to door journey times which is what counts.

Lutz   02/07/2016 at 14:16

I wonder if those making these claims are prepared to have their pay linked to proven achievement of the improvements they are claiming are possible from all of this investment? I think if that was the case, there would be fewer of these tenuous and unproven assertions, but while it is other people's money, the unsubstantiated claims will continue.

Andrew Gwilt   02/07/2016 at 22:00

That is why the Class 319's are going to be used for once the electrification between Manchester and Bolton is completed and also electrification between Manchester Victoria and Leeds including Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Airport and Huddersfield which will also see Class 319's being used on the newly electrified line between Manchester and Leeds with most of the Class 319's cascaded from Thameslink with the Class 700's now in service between Bedford and Brighton and soon to operate to Sutton, Wimbledon and other routes.

Jb   05/07/2016 at 13:25

Don't forget the need to re-open the Skipton and Colne line - a mere 12 miles or so - which, besides giving the local populations back their rail service, would create another much needed northern trans-Pennine link for both passengers and freight. A simple, relatively low cost project by comparison to the dubious HS3.

Nonsuchmike   07/07/2016 at 14:02

Another edict at tremendous cost to the taxpayer from the Ministry of the Bleedin' Obvious. Currently, with its stop-go policy on rail related work this government is trying to change the north into the Northern Poorhouse rather than a Powerhouse. I would like to see the plans for the North to exceed (not patronisingly "more in line with the rest of England") those for southern England and for them to be accelerated ahead of those areas. That does not mean that we should stop all rail related activity south of the Trent, but it does mean that we should reverse some decisions which have traditionally favoured disproportionately London and the SE and then see what little money remaining is doled out around the periphery. Electrification of several major and secondary routes is all important, but equally so is connecting Skipton and Colne for an extra cross Pennine route, dualling the Halton Curve for passenger services, implementing a plan to improve services north from Leeds eg maybe reinstate Harrogate-Northallerton. When I see these and other such improvements in permanent way and freight/passenger accompanying services coming to fruition will I know that the government of the day is serious about a Northern Powerhouse.

Jb   08/07/2016 at 18:24

Yes, Harrogate to Northallerton would give the City of Ripon back its rail service which should never have been taken away. Its a disgrace that Riponians (and other locals) have to make a road journey to Harrogate or Leeds for connections to London or other parts of the UK

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