North transport bosses have been granted new powers to set the long-term priorities needed to get the North moving.
On April 1st, Transport for the North (TfN) became England's first sub-national transport body.
That means the North, through TfN, has a louder voice in bidding for cash and setting priorities.
TfN now has the power to:
· Develop and implement a Strategic Transport Plan
· Act as ‘one voice’ for the North, relaying priorities to the Secretary of State
· Coordinate and deliver smart ticketing systems across the North
· Become a statutory partner in road and rail investment decisions
· Oversee (jointly with DfT) franchised rail services covering Northern and TransPennine Express franchises through the Rail North Partnership team
· Construct new roads, with the agreement of Government and relevant highway and local authorities
· Decide on the allocation of capital grants
The new powers are being backed up by hard cash.
Speaking at the first Transport for the North (TfN) Partnership Board in Liverpool, Rail Minister Jo Johnson said:
“Between 2015 and 2020 the government will have spent over £13bn – more than any other in history – to transform northern transport, boosting economic growth and unlocking the incredible potential of the great towns and cities of the north.
“Establishing Transport for the North is a crucial next step in giving the north greater influence than ever over transport investment. It is imperative that the north now speaks with a strong, unified voice to identify where we can work together to transform journeys for people."
The North now has more influence than ever over transport investment and money is being made available.
The key now is to make sure we in the North use this new status to prioritise transport projects that will bring genuine economic improvements.
Very few businesses believe moderately shorter journeys times between Humberside and Manchester or Newcastle and Leeds can catalyse serious growth in the North without an international vision.
Brexit brings with it unlimited trading opportunities for the North. TfN must embrace this in its strategic plan and use its powers to create a Global North by integrating local transport alongside much better links with international transport hubs.