November 17: Vital that we see our transport infrastructure transformed

From: Lord Adonis, Chairman, National Infrastructure Commission.

IT is quicker to travel the 283 miles from London to Paris by train than it is to travel less than half that distance between Liverpool and Hull.

Manchester and Sheffield are just 38 miles apart, and yet it takes almost an hour and a half to get from one to the other by car, in which time you could get from Southampton to Oxford, which is twice the distance. To unlock the potential of our great Yorkshire cities we need an ambitious agenda of infrastructure investment.

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We have seen a new wave of progress here. Siemens has established itself in Hull and East Yorkshire, whilst Hitachi, Nissan and Rolls Royce have chosen the North East as their hub for growth. Transport is linking the people and communities of this region to each other and the rest of the world.

HS2 will connect eight of the 10 largest cities in the UK. Connectivity between the North and the Midlands as well as the South will be transformed, and £21bn of investment in the Northern sections of HS2 will support at least 60,000 jobs.

These are big steps forward, but they are not big enough. Crowding on many services is no longer confined to peak times. Passengers are paying too much, squeezing themselves onto crowded trains which take too long to get to their destination. Meanwhile major roads are congested. Without additional capacity, rail and road services into city centres will act as a bottleneck on growth.

That is why the new National Infrastructure Commission, which I chair, has been asked to work with local and regional partners, including the new Transport for the North agency, on plans to improve connections between the major cities of the North.

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We seek engagement and consultation from all who have innovative and practical ideas. The potential rewards could be transformational. Yorkshire and the Humber alone has a population of more than five million people, and the combined population of the Northern regions is greater than 10 million. That is more than London. An ambitious plan to connect the cities and towns of the North could generate a wave of new companies, enterprises and jobs.

The ambition of Northern connectivity is about retaining the individual and distinct characters and hubs of cities and towns, whilst joining them together in a more powerful economic community. The North was the home to the Industrial Revolution; that same reforming spirit must be rekindled to unlock its next great era.