Thirty-year plan includes proposals for the Northern Powerouse Rail network

High speed train

Source: Paul J Martin / Shutterstock

Transport for the North (TfN) has unveiled a £70bn plan spanning 30 years to improve roads and railways across the North of England, including the creation of the new Northern Powerhouse Rail network.

The firm, which will have statutory powers from April, said the developments within its Strategic Transport Plan would help create 850,000 jobs and boost the economy by £100bn.

Plans for the Northern Powerhouse Rail, a network between the North’s six biggest cities and other economic centres, was unveiled for the first time. 

This includes a new line between Liverpool and the HS2 Manchester Spur via Warrington; capacity at Manchester Piccadilly for around eight through services per hour; a new Trans Pennine rail line that connects Manchester and Leeds via Bradford and upgrades to the existing line from Leeds to Hull (via Selby) and Sheffield to Hull (via Doncaster).

According to TfN, a new line between Liverpool and Manchester Piccadilly would cut journey times from 50 to 28 minutes, with a new line from Manchester to Leeds via Bradford would bring this down from 49 to 30 minutes.

This follows an announcement from chancellor Philip Hammond at the Conservative party conference in October for investment of £300m to create connections between the HS2 rail line and cities not directly on the route, as well as an additional £100m for 33 road schemes. This will bring the total investment in transport in the north to £13bn by 2020 

Seven ‘corridors’ have also been identified to make it easier to travel across the region, improving the movement of freight and goods across the north and to ports and airports.

This includes the ‘Southern Pennines’ corridor, which outlines proposed road and rail improvements from the Port of Liverpool to the Humber Ports, via Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region.

The cost of the 30-year plan is estimated to equate £2bn-£2.3bn per year.

A public consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan is now open until 17 April. A final version of the plan will be submitted later in the year and submitted to the government for ministerial consideration.

John Cridland, chairman of TfN, said: “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.”

TfN’s plans have been backed by both WSP and the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), with the former warning that barriers remain in relation to the prioritising, finding and delivery of the new infrastructure. 

Nasar Malik, director of professional services and engineering consultancy at WSP, said: “We welcome the consultation launch of the STP and the recognition of the vital role a better connected transport system across the north will play in acting as a catalyst for transformational economic growth to reduce the north-south divide. 

“Looking ahead, there will be challenges for TfN in relation to the prioritising, funding and delivery of major new infrastructure, but the STP is an excellent start to the longer-term delivery of improvements.”

ICE director general Nick Baveystock added: “The Strategic Transport Plan aligns with the ICE’s own recommendations, setting out a coherent case for improving connectivity across all major modes of transport. This will improve service accessibility and reliability for people in the North and help to deliver sustainable economic growth across the region.

“We are pleased that the Plan goes beyond the here and now to consider the impact and benefits of future technologies, such as autonomous and connected vehicles. It is critically important to ensure that the North’s transport networks are future proofed, signalling that the region is ready and waiting to exploit this and other similar opportunities.”