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Northern leaders meet with rail minister to formally launch TfN

Transport for the North (TfN) will officially become England’s first ever sub-national transport body today as transport minister Jo Johnson meets northern leaders and businesses in Liverpool.

The inaugural meeting marks the moment that the body will finally take up its statutory powers, which TfN’s chair, John Cridland, will hail as a “one-in-a-generation opportunity” for the north to shape its own transport future.

It has taken two years of partnership for the organisation to acquire its status as a formal partner to the government.

The meeting will see the minister join elected leaders from the north’s 19 local and combined authorities, co-opted business leaders and representatives from Highways England, HS2 and Network Rail, as they form a leadership board for TfN.

“The scale of opportunity and ambition cannot be understated. For the first time, recommendations on what and where investment is needed will be agreed by the people that live and work in the north, allowing us to speak with a united voice to central government,” Cridland said.

“It’s a watershed moment for devolution and a once in a generation opportunity to deliver significant improvements in the north’s transport network.”

He explained that TfN’s Strategic Transport Plan will set a blueprint for transport infrastructure improvements over the next 30 years, which he argues will allow the organisation to make a strong and consistent case for sustained investment in the north – although questions have been raised regarding the extent of the body’s power, especially relating to generating its own funding.

He added: “We’re already making this a reality. We’re developing fully-costed proposals for Northern Powerhouse Rail, developing plans for major road improvements including a TransPennine tunnel, starting to roll-out smart ticketing, and are driving tangible service improvements through our co-management of Rail North franchises.

“This coming year will be the busiest and most important yet.”

Johnson added that establishing TfN demonstrates the government’s “unwavering commitment” to giving northern towns and cities greater influence over transport investment decisions.

“This government is investing over £13bn – more than any government in history – to transform northern transport, boost economic growth and deliver significantly improved journeys for passengers,” he continued.

“We are already seeing the real, tangible benefits of that investment at Liverpool Lime Street – including major upgrades to platforms and signalling at this great Victorian station.”

Top image: Lewis Whyld PA Archive

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