YORKSHIRE NEEDS a wholesale overhaul of its transport network to deliver the ‘northern powerhouse’ economic vision set out by Chancellor George Osborne, according to engineers.
The National Infrastructure Commission has been told a “whole network” approach, rather than investing in individual projects, is needed to have a major impact on growth.
Mr Osborne launched the National Infrastructure Commission last year with orders to focus on prioritising schemes to improve connections between the North’s towns and cities.
In its evidence to the Commission, the Institution of Civil Engineers urges it to go beyond looking at which individual roads and railways are improved and review the North’s transport network as a whole.
As an example, it suggests investment is needed in local rail lines and the existing East Coast Main Line to maximise the impact of the HS2 high speed rail line due to arrive in Yorkshire in 2032.
The organisation also calls for more to be done to connect “assets” such as ports and airports as well as improving journeys between town and city centres.
And following the recent flooding, it recommends the Commission consider how to make the North’s transport network more resilient to the impact of extreme weather.
Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at business advisory giant KPMG in Leeds and head of the ICE’s northern powerhouse panel, said: “The growth opportunity for the North of England is huge, but it will simply not fully prosper as a one economy without significant improvements in connectivity.
“There is much to be done – spend on new transport infrastructure in the North has lagged behind London and average spend across the UK regions for decades.
“But it’s not just about investment; we need to think differently about how and where investment is allocated, we need to adopt a more strategic approach which considers the entire network and delivers maximum benefit.
“We would also like to see a host of system improvements driven forward - such as an integrated ticketing system for the North, simpler fare structures and integrated timetables.
“Relatively quick and low cost improvements like this will enable the North to look, feel and operate as a single economic powerhouse.”
The electrification of rail routes to ports in the North, more rail access to airports such as Leeds-Bradford and investment in “smart motorways” are among the recommendations included in the report.
Coun Keith Wakefield, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, said: “Better transport infrastructure is a key driver of economic growth and is something the West Yorkshire Combined Authority wants to see delivered in our region.
“We’ve secured a £1 billionn deal to fund 26 transport schemes over the next 10 years to help achieve this, building on recently-delivered schemes such as a new rail station at Apperley Bridge and the new Leeds Station southern entrance.”
He added: “But as we’ve said all along making ‘northern powerhouse’ a reality requires real and ongoing commitment and investment from government to support the plans and ambitions of the north’s local authorities.”
The National Infrastructure Commission is chaired by former Transport Secretary Lord Andrew Adonis and has been asked to produce its report by the Budget in March.