The North is watching: Ex-Chancellor's warning to Government as 'revolutionary' 30-year Yorkshire transport vision is unveiled

Yorkshire transport is to undergo a major overhaul.
Yorkshire transport is to undergo a major overhaul.
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A radical overhaul of ticketing and high speed rail travel between Leeds and Manchester in half an hour are at the centrepiece of a 30 year vision for transport in the North laid out today.

Transport for the North's strategic transport plan sets out proposals for a 'world-class railway for the North' and a greater focus on the neglected local road network to make it easier for people and goods to get around the region.

The 96-page document lays out in more detail plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the high speed line connecting the region's biggest cities.

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The report says a high speed rail line between Leeds and Manchester, stopping at Bradford, will speed up journey times from 49 minutes to 30, and mean trips from Sheffield to Leeds will take 26 minutes compared with the current 41.

Transport for the North has today unveiled its 30-year vision for the region

Transport for the North has today unveiled its 30-year vision for the region

It proposes upgrades to the Hope Valley rail line between Sheffield and Manchester, with an option to look at a completely new line, as well as a Trans-Pennine tunnel between the two cities, following the route of the A628.

Proposals are also set out for a revolution in integrated and smart travel, including the ability to use the same contactless bank card to travel across a range of transport types around the region within the next four years.

Former Chancellor George Osborne described the report as "historic day" for the Northern Powerhouse, the concept he introduced while in government to bridge the economic gap between the North and South.

He said: "Implementing the Transport for the North plan in full would give the people of the North the modern, fit-for-purpose transport system they so badly need. The emphasis is now on government to ensure they act decisively and efficiently to carry out the recommendations made – the North is watching and waiting.”

Transport for the North was recently granted statutory status by the Government, meaning Ministers are obliged to take its views into consideration and making it the only body of its kind in the country.

Responding to the report today, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he was "looking forward to working with [TfN] on the final business case".

The report was launched at events around the North, including one at telecoms firm aql in Leeds. But all did not go to plan at the launch event in Hull, with former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott reportedly storming out while shouting "it's a bloody fraud".

He later told the BBC: "It was promised to have statutory powers to let the North decide its powers, now we know it will have no powers. It can talk to the Treasury along with the statutory bodies but it can't make decisions, it doesn't get any money. It is a bloody fraud."

Because TfN lacks the ability to borrow money or raise its own revenue, it will have to seek other sources of income to pay for the ambitious plans costing between £60bn and £70bn over 30 years.

These include using revenues from vehicle excise duty and the expected surpluses provided by the North's two major rail franchises, and taking advantage of increases land values in areas of major infrastructure investment,

The report says the North's rail network "lacks sufficient capacity for growth and is severely constrained by on-train congestion, low journey speeds and poor punctuality".

As well as high speed rail, Transport for the North also wants to raise standards across the region's railway network, to address problems such as lack of network capacity and slow journey times.

Among its commitments is to "review the fares structure, products and pricing, with a view to re moving unnecessary complexity and price anomalies and promoting the efficient use of transport infrastructure - delivering a structure which is perceived as fair, and is commercially sustainable and supports economic and social objectives".

And it outlines plans for a rail route across the central Pennines which would be prioritised for freight, potentially involving the re-opening of the historic Skipton to Colne line, which would mean goods could get from the eastern side of the region to the western side much more quickly.

John Cridland, Transport for the North Chairman, said, “The North is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. We have vibrant communities, buzzing cities, five stunning national parks, an abundance of talent and a wealth of high-performing businesses.

"Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.

“For the first time, civic and business leaders and transport operators are speaking with one voice on transport to make sure the North fulfils its potential. Our plan proposes a revolutionary investment programme that will make it possible to travel to high quality jobs.

"This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the North and ensuring we meet that historic gap in investment.”

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Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan is the first of its kind and outlines how connections across the North need to be improved to drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England. The public are now being asked to share their thoughts on the proposals through a thirteen-week consultation.

Aimed at re-balancing the UK’s economy through a sustained 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, it is claimed the plan could deliver a £100 billion boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, a member of the Transport for the North partnership board, 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.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are committed to the Northern Powerhouse, and to giving the great towns and cities of the North more say over transport investment through Transport for the North. This government is spending over £13bn to transform transport across the north - the biggest transport investment in the region for a generation.

“I welcome the publication of the draft Strategic Transport Plan from TfN, and look forward to working with them on the final business case. This is an important step in the North speaking with one voice to set out its vision for transport in the region over the next 30 years.”