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North needs long term rail funding commitment

Updated: Feb 19

Transport for the North (TfN) Chief Executive Martin Tugwell is calling for the need to 'do things differently with investment in the North’s connectivity.'

Opening the TfN’s Annual Conference in Liverpool yesterday, Tugwell highlighted the ‘importance of allowing the North’s political and business leaders to decide and deliver on transport needs, and how the reliance on ‘one size fits all’ for investment appraisal is holding the region back.’

TfN’s Annual Conference brought together politicians and business leaders from the North, alongside industry experts and stakeholders, to discuss key issues on transport, decarbonisation, inclusion, and economic growth.

Speakers reiterated the need for committed long-term funding to major infrastructure projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) as originally set out by TfN.

Tugwell iterated that ‘we must invest in new concepts and strive for better outcomes, if we are to deliver economic growth that is sustainable and inclusive for the longer term.’

Invited guest speaker, Rail Minister, Huw Merriman broadly agreed, explaining, “I understand that government doesn’t always know best. That it is Mayors, TfN, and local leaders who are best placed to make decisions that affect people’s lives.”

He explained, “Most of the North is now covered by Metro Mayors, armed with significant budgets and the heft to use them.

“So, instead of decisions made by Ministers in Whitehall, Network North is opening up funding, building up infrastructure and giving local leaders a say in how to level up the cities and towns that need it most.”

A united case

TfN says that its revised Strategic Transport (STP) road map will create better connectivity for the North, make levelling up ‘real’, and reduce transport-related social exclusion.

The STP sets out how people living and working in the North of England speaking with ‘one voice,’ through the TfN board are best placed to set out the connectivity outcomes needed to transform the North.

Speaking on the cancellation of Phase 2 of HS2, Mr. Merriman said it “marked a radical change in government’s approach to transport,” arguing that “instead of one line, for people travelling to London, our Network North plan will serve hundreds of places and tens of millions of people each day.”

Critics like Professor Andrew McNaughton argue, “HS2 not only tripled passenger capacity, it also provided a future for sustainable freight logistics. It would seem that this government thinks there is an alternative future: sitting in a motorway traffic jam.”

New transport deal promised

Highlighting on-going projects, Mr. Merriman discussed electrification of the Hope Valley line, to ‘cut journey times and double capacity’ adding, “we know that Northern commuters are tired of overcrowding and we’re doing something about it.”

He further cited the changes that will come about Liverpool becoming a freeport, and the implications following a predicted increase in freight after construction of Peel Ports’ ‘Liverpool 2’: “More lorries carrying more freight can lead to congestion. But by doubling rail freight capacity on the Bootle branch with an £8.3 million investment, we can reduce the burden on roads.

Mr. Merriman said that the Government will soon announce plans to invest “unprecedented sums in 14 rural counties, smaller cities, and towns” in a ‘new deal’ for local transport.

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