TODAY, Transport for the North takes up its statutory powers at an inaugural meeting of the board. It’s a symbolic moment, marking the transfer of powers from London to the North.
For the first time, the North is ready to speak in unison, with a determined voice when engaging with Government. We all agree that transport will be fundamental to the region’s economic prosperity, helping bridge the economic divide and reverse decades of under-investment. It’s Transport for the North’s role to communicate how and when that should happen clearly to the Government.
As independent chairman, I’ve seen this unique partnership progress rapidly to this point – in what is a watershed moment for devolution of power to the North. I could reflect on the painstaking working from so many organisations that has helped make this a reality, but now is the time to look forward.
Research shows that 850,000 additional jobs could be created in the North by 2050 if the right infrastructure is delivered at the right time.
Infrastructure like the new railway line we’re proposing between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford, as part of our Northern Powerhouse Rail network, which could slash the journey time between these major cities.
Infrastructure like the trans-Pennine Tunnel, upgrades and bypasses we’re proposing to transform driving between Sheffield and Manchester and take pressure off the overloaded M62.
Infrastructure like our integrated and smart ticketing programme which, over the next few years, will provide tap-in travel, real-time journey planning and a fair-price promise for public transport across the North.
We’re making joint decisions today that will shape the way people move around the North for decades to come. That means real, tangible differences to people’s journeys within and through Yorkshire. New opportunities to commute to other cities for work without leaving your hometown. Faster and more reliable ways to travel around our great region, experiencing its buzzing cities and stunning National Parks. The ability to move goods faster and more efficiently, meaning the North becomes a place where businesses clamour to locate. The ripple effects are astonishing.
For the first time ever, the North’s transport needs and the power to do something about them now lies with those living and working here. We’ve just received the statutory powers to make widescale change a reality.
In a nutshell, our powers allow us to develop and implement a Strategic Transport Plan; co-ordinate and deliver smart ticketing; become a statutory partner on road and rail investment decisions; and act as ‘one voice’ to the Secretary of State on transport issues affecting the North.
As a formal partner, the Government of the day will take our views into account, consider the programmes we put forward and consult us when important decisions are being made about transport investment.
And that’s important. Now, we can take a co-ordinated and collaborative approach to put forward evidenced, fully-costed, regional improvement programmes that will deliver step changes in the experience of Northern travel driving transformational economic growth, which will benefit the whole country.
Our role is simple. We listen; we gather compelling evidence; we set the agenda; and we get on and deliver.
In what is a monumental listening exercise, our teams have so far spent 2018 out in communities talking to residents, interest groups, businesses and civic leaders about their priorities and changes they’d like to see.
This engagement will culminate in the Strategic Transport Plan, a blueprint for 30 years of infrastructure investment. The Government has challenged us to lay out what the North wants, the Strategic Transport Plan, with its ambition and scale, will be our response.
There will be no let-up in the pace and the coming year will be the most important yet. By this time next year we will have published a final Strategic Transport Plan and long-term investment plan.
There’s a lot to do. But I truly believe that the spirit of collaboration that has got us to this point will endure. We’ll move forward as one voice, now with the power to make sure that voice is heard.
John Cridland is chairman of Transport for the North.