Wellington Street entrance to Leeds station
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Nick Hill

Thirty-year infrastructure plan launched to transform transport in the North

The publication of a thirty-year plan to drive economic growth has outlined proposals for future transport investment in Leeds City Region and the wider North of England.

Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, who represents Leeds City Region on the Transport for the North Partnership Board, and aql chief executive professor Adam Beaumont, who is also a representative of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, launched the plan at the aql Data Centre in Leeds.

Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan outlines how connections across the North of England need to be improved to drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England.

Aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy through a 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, the plan could deliver a £100bn boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

Transport for the North’s aim is to make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region, increasing access to jobs, supporting businesses and improving the movement of freight and goods across the North and to its ports and airports.

Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims.

The ‘Central Pennines’ corridor will improve east-west connectivity for some of the North’s important economic centres and assets in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Riding and Hull and Humber through to Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region.

Priorities for this corridor include the transformation of Leeds station to allow for new HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail services, the provision of a rail-route across the central Pennines, which would be prioritised for freight, and improvements to the M65/A59 road corridor.

Alongside the corridors, Transport for the North has also outlined its vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would see a new railway line linking Leeds with Manchester via Bradford as well as much faster connections between Leeds and Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull, would mean that an additional 46% of the population, over 1.4 million residents, would be able to access three major cities within 90 minutes from home.

An additional 344,305 businesses will be able to connect with Leeds within 90 minutes and it is estimated that the impact of agglomeration between Leeds and Manchester would deliver an additional £60m a year into the economy.

Councillor Judith Blake said: “This new 30-year plan represents an ambitious but deliverable vision for a transformational improvement to our transport network and connectivity both across the north and also with the rest of the country.

“It is a vitally-needed level of investment to not only help realise the economic potential of the north but would also boost and be part of the process of rebalancing the national economy too.

“Most importantly it would benefit the lives, prospects and opportunities for millions of people living in the Leeds City Region and the wider north as a whole, so we encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation and tell us what they think.”

The plan is accompanied by an updated Rail Strategy for investment in the North’s existing lines, stations, services and franchise operations.

In the short-term, Transport for the North has commenced a rolling programme from now until 2021 to introduce integrated and smart ticketing across the North of England. This will make paying for and planning travel easier, starting in cities and across the busiest routes. The cost of the 30-year plan is estimated to equate to less than £150 per northern citizen per year, or £2-2.3bn per year.

This figure also includes spending which would already be expected as part of ongoing strategic transport investment in the North, with only £50 per person per year (£700-900m per year) additional spending.

Regional spend figures issued by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority for the four years from 2017 calculated that projected Government spend on strategic transport will be £1,039 per head for the three Northern regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber).

A public consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan will run until 17th April 2018 with engagement events taking place across the North.

A final version of the plan will be published later in the year and submitted to the Government for ministerial consideration.

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