THE Government will have to “put its money where its mouth is” and fund transformational projects to improve Northern transport in 2018, the head of a leading think-tank has warned.
A strategic transport plan for the North, setting out the £60bn worth of spending needed over the next three decades, will be unveiled next month after being agreed by the region’s 19 transport authorities.
In 2018 I expect we’ll see transformational projects ready for investment and at that point the talking and excuses will have to stop and government will have to put its money where its mouth is.Ed Cox, IPPR North
Transport for the North will become the first strategic body of its type on April 1, meaning the Government will have to take its views into account when deciding where it allocates vital infrastructure funding.
Jonathan Spruce, TfN’s Interim Strategy Director, said 2018 would also be the year the travelling public start to see the benefits of Yorkshire and other regions working together on transport policy.
Among the improvements will be the introduction of smart technology on rail season tickets across the region, meaning commuters will get a smart card rather than a paper ticket when they renew.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “New trains will start appearing, there will be the new Azuma trains on the East Coast Mainline, Northern are talking about the rolling stock that is coming through to replace the Pacers.
“There is a big timetable change planned in May next year, [there will be] things such as the Harrogate line getting four trains an hour.
“In 2018 the travelling public will start to see the benefits of the North working as one, the North saying to Government we need a better rail franchise, we need to do something cleverer, we need a new type of ticketing system that works for the North.”
Ed Cox, director of think-tank IPPR North, said: “The Department for Transport never believed northern leaders could come up with a mutually agreed transport strategy for the North. They were wrong.
“In 2018 I expect we’ll see transformational projects ready for investment and at that point the talking and excuses will have to stop and government will have to put its money where its mouth is.”
Ministers have faced strong criticism from northern politicians in the last year over the disparity in transport spending between the North and London, culminating in a Commons debate in November.
Hull North MP Diana Johnson, who led the debate, said: “What I expect in 2018 is Northern tax-payers and fare-payers to continue being ripped off - paying ever more, but not getting our fair share of investment that’s needed regionally and that would be in the interests of the UK economy as a whole.
“What I hope from 2018 is that, with the help of the media in the North, we can put on TV screens and in newspapers and on websites images showing the sheer scale of investment that London and the South East have been getting and that we in the North currently have little hope of seeing here.
“Transport for the North, the fledgling advisory body that is a pale shadow of Transport for London, has aspirations for improving the North’s transport network - but with a completion date of 2050. This is simply inadequate and we in the North should fight hard to change this.”