24 Aug 2018

The last few months have seen significant proposals agreed for the future of Northern transport. They have the potential to improve the economy of the region.

Transport for the North (TfN) has claimed that its new plans for transport across the North could help create 850,000 jobs and boost the UK’s overall economy by £100bn. These are significant figures but what changes are actually being made?

Enabling works for HS2, the high-speed rail link that will see journey times halved between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, began earlier this year.

Alongside the high-speed line itself, there are plans for an enhanced rail offering across the North, with planned improvements to the East Coast mainline from London to Edinburgh and a new line (or at least significant improvements to the current lines) from east to west, commonly referred to as Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS3.

The transport sector is continuing to push for progress in the speed and efficiency of services. This has been reflected in Chris Grayling’s recent confirmation that the route between Manchester and York will be electrified. Additionally, investment has been provided to fund TfN’s “Integrated and Smart” programme, which intends to develop smart ticketing technology across the region and ultimately increase overall passenger satisfaction across the rail and bus sectors.

Aside from heavy rail, Nexus, the operator and passenger transport executive of the Tyne & Wear Metro system, is currently procuring a brand new fleet of rolling stock and has begun work to build a new training centre in South Shields. Extensions to the Sheffield Supertram, where pioneering Tram Train systems operate on both light and heavy rail infrastructure, and Manchester Metrolink systems are also planned, with the latter looking to extend out to Manchester Airport from the city centre.

£3bn has been set aside to improve the North’s road networks, for example, upgrading the A69 between Newcastle and Carlisle, turning the A500 in Cheshire into a dual carriageway, improving east-west connections across the Tees Valley and further improvements to the A19 and A1. A number of the proposals are also themed around improving access to the seven international airports and twelve major ports located in the Northern Powerhouse region, so that the entire area can benefit from increased trading links.

There has been criticism of the government for focusing on these long-term ‘transformational’ projects at the expense of resolving short to medium-term issues with current infrastructure. However, it is clear that transport in the North is set for some ambitious and positive developments in the future.

Womble Bond Dickinson is embedded in the North East and the transport sector. We partnered with the North East England Chamber of Commerce last year on The Public Transport Priorities Report to understand the region’s views on public transport and to gain an understanding of how it could be improved.

We are therefore very keen to see how transport in the region will develop in the near to long-term future.

This article first appeared in Chronicle Live.