The Strategic Transport Plan for the North: Time to deliver a connected region
The Strategic Transport Plan for the North (STPN) has been published and aims to deliver a laudable vision of ‘a thriving North of England, where world class transport supports sustainable economic growth, excellent quality of life and improved opportunities for all’.
Turley welcomes the ambition of the plan in terms of the level of investment proposed and the ambitions for a strong, connected, economically powerful north. However, securing the necessary funding and delivering on the ambition is fundamental.
It is underpinned by four ‘pan-Northern’ transport objectives, closely linked to the foundations established in the Government’s Industrial Strategy:
- Transforming economic performance;
- Increasing efficiency, reliability, integration, and resilience in the transport system;
- Improving inclusivity, health, and access to opportunities for all; and
- Promoting and enhancing the built, historic, and natural environment.
It makes the case for funding of between £60 to £70bn between 2020 and 2050. This funding will be used to develop and deliver five key work programmes for road and rail investment:
- Northern Powerhouse Rail – focusing on improving reliability, resilience and speed of rail connections between major cities (including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield) and Manchester Airport meaning that 1.3m people will be within one hours’ train journey of four major cities in the north (currently 10,000 people).
- Long Term Rail Strategy – focused on infrastructure investment (i.e. lines, stations, services and franchising) aimed at improving capacity and facilitating future growth.
- Major Roads – aims to promote key road routes connecting major economic hubs, including new and improved road connections.
- Integrated and Smart Travel – seeking to make public transport journeys simple and seamless through contactless payment and real time service information.
- Local & Sustainable Transport – supporting wholescale transport connectivity through localised and ‘short trip’ journey enhancements, including public transport, cycling and walking.
A comprehensive summary of the STPN (and associated Investment Plan) can be found here.
Delivery without delay
The plan is undoubtedly a positive development for the north (and by implication, the UK as a whole). The challenge, as ever, will be delivery – translating the STPN from a theoretical plan to infrastructure on the ground.
This requires a firm commitment by Central Government and a concerted, joined-up effort from the north’s civic leaders and private sector.
There is also significant risk that the projects comprising the STP work programmes will be caught up in delays either in terms of funding or securing the necessary consents for delivery. It is important that this is not the case, particularly in the context of the need to respond to changes in trade and business patterns in an increasingly uncertain and competitive global market. Decisive action is needed. A joined-up civic and business community will assist but greater clarity on timely delivery is essential.
The investment is arguably the minimum – it represents an increase of £50 per person across the north despite London receiving £602 more per person and the greater south-east receiving £199 more* - following years of substantial underinvestment. This has threatened to undermine the ambition for a northern powerhouse, central to which is the inter-connectivity and close relationships between the great cities of the north.
The recognition of the need to align key growth locations for residential and employment development with transport infrastructure is important. This can be achieved by ensuring that Local Plans are spatially consistent with and integrated with the STPN. The STPN will drive growth and it is important that Local Plans take full account of the opportunities that this presents.
Similarly, the targeting of investment in identified Strategic Corridors to maximise their potential is undoubtedly a positive. This recognises that the north has a number of world-leading/ internationally important clusters, ports and airports and that quality connections between these areas is needed if they are to be competitive on the world stage.
8 February 2019