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Investment in cities more important than rail for Northern Powerhouse

Strengthening transport links within northern cities will contribute more to the Northern Powerhouse than large scale rail projects, think tank Centre for Cities has argued in a new report.

The report compares conditions in the north of England to that of the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad regions of Germany and the Netherlands, which the government has cited as models for the Northern Powerhouse.

The average productivity of the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad in 2011 was £60,169 for every worker, compared to £42,816 in the north of England.

However, transport links in the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad are not significantly different or better.

The report argues that in the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad, the majority of the population live in the same city as their place of work or on the outskirts, and this pattern is likely to be repeated in the north, meaning that projects such as HS3 are not needed for city-to-city commuting.

The report warns: “There is a case for improving transport between cities in the north. But the allure of a grand projet should not divert attention from improving the places it is designed to link, particularly when it comes to transport within the city regions and skills across the north.”

It also says that it is more important that public transport is frequent than fast, with a high proportion of commuters in northern England using the bus (73% of those who commute, compared to 38% in the Rhine-Ruhr and Randstad) because of a lack of frequent train or tram services.

The report recommends that power over public transport is devolved to Transport for London style bodies, which would be able to control the provision of services, integrate them with other policy areas, negotiate long-term funding areas, introduce smart ticketing across different networks and raise funds for investment.

A survey of delegates at the Northern Powerhouse International conference found that 88% thought improving transport links within the north was very important for building the Northern Powerhouse, but just 59% gave the same rating to improving transport links between north and south.

(Image: c. Graeme Bickerdike)

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Lutz   01/06/2016 at 18:48

I am full agreement with the allotment of resources for improving intra-urban transport - this will benefit those on lower incomes than would the longer distance connections since they are likely to use local transport far more than a prestige national link. But hey, Politicians and certain sectors of society want the big Unicorn projects more than they want to spend time at look at what will make a real, relevant, difference.

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