Northern Transport: The £13bn investment changing the North for good

Today Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is heading north to talk to local leaders about transport infrastructure. 

For business, better transport infrastructure is absolutely key to us delivering a growing economy in the North. 

Almost £13bn will be invested into northern transport infrastructure by the government over this parliament. Importantly, along with that investment, power has been devolved too, with elected mayors in some areas and Transport for the North now in place to decide and deliver on our strategic transport priorities. 

However it was surprising for many to see Labour MP's representing Yorkshire and the Humber calling to "receive greater control over transport"  last month - and just weeks later, Labour Council leaders in Barnsley and Doncaster pulling the plug on a devolution deal which could delivered just that, as part of a wider £900 million deal.

It is true the north has historically suffered from poor rail and road infrastructure. That historic imbalance has not just happened recently, but had built up because of decades of under investment.

Grayling himself makes it clear poor transport is still holding the north back. "Congested roads and overcrowded trains are a daily reality for thousands of commuters. Without modern, efficient and reliable transport links, the vast economic potential of the North cannot be realised."

Campaign groups and Labour politicians continue to talk cash -  calling for "£59 billion" of "catch up cash". To give that some context, that is about £15 billion more than the UK's entire annual Defence budget. 

However out of the bubble and on the ground we are now starting to see real improvements. For example, the £770 million being invested in the A6 Manchester Airport relief road will increase access to the country's third biggest airport, providing an economic boost to Greater Manchester and beyond with more than 22 million people living within a two hour drive of the airport. That investment is one of the reasons is why the new Enterprise Zone is proving such a positive investment opportunity for major companies like Amazon, which is creating 1,500 jobs by opening it's new facility at Airport City.

It is pointless and counter-productive to simply compare the north to London. Local leaders in London were planning for today's £15bn Crossrail project from as early as the 1970s. Crossrail 2 has been almost a decade in preparation. The North needs transport investment, but it needs vision too. We need our local leaders here in the North to develop their own vision, to think differently and be ambitious - both about new and existing transport infrastructure. 

Local leaders across the North must now step up, listen to business and the public, and work with government in making sure transport in the North is fit for decades to come.