New transport leaders vow to secure improvements for the North

The new leaders of Transport for the North have vowed to be a strong voice for the region and secure investment for major projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

New Transport for the North chief executive Martin Tugwell and acting chair Louise Gittins
New Transport for the North chief executive Martin Tugwell and acting chair Louise Gittins

Councillor Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, became acting chair this week and Martin Tugwell will begin his role as chief executive on Monday.

They have prioritised work on the business case for NPR - a £43bn project which aims to better connect northern towns and cities with new and significantly upgraded railway lines - Transport for the North’s new freight and logistics strategy and the strategy to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector.

They will also lobby the government for devolved powers and funding for northern leaders, so they can make significant improvements to the transport infrastructure.

“Transport for the North’s mission is more important than ever as we seek to build back greener and fairer, and secure investment in our region,” said councillor Gittins.

“The Transport for the North board champions a ‘one voice’ approach, bringing our region’s political and business leaders together to speak out on the key issues and help bring about changes that benefit our region.”

Mr Tugwell said: “There are many opportunities in the months and years ahead, and my focus is on ensuring we implement TfN’s vision of a thriving region, with sustainable transport connections that enable growth for our people and businesses, is more important than ever.

“I look forward to working with our regional leaders and Government to make transport more accessible, inclusive and sustainable as part of the wider levelling up agenda.”

Earlier this month, Transport for the North revealed NPR will be delayed by at least a year because Northern leaders are waiting for the Government to publish its long-overdue Integrated Rail Plan (IPR).

In a report, it said the business case will not be submitted until March 2022 at the earliest - a year later than originally planned - but it could be “potentially much later” and this will “result in delays to the programme and start of construction”

That is because Northern leaders have been told the IRP will not be made public until after Parliament’s summer recess, which ends on September 6, and Transport for the North needs to review it before finalising its business case for the project.

Robbie Moore, Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley, said he is lobbying the Government to publish the Integrated Rail Plan.

He added: “They're obviously reviewing that whole wider piece to do with transport in this region and want to make sure it works.

“What I've been absolutely loud and clear about to my constituents and other colleagues is that a decision needs to be made now. I’m urging the Government to effectively get on with it.

“I've had no indication from the Government at all that there is no appetite for delivering this.”