On Tuesday the Chamber attended the launch of a new £15bn transport plan developed by a coalition of Northern Cities including Leeds. The plan “One North: A Proposition for an interconnected North” has been formulated in response to the challenge set out by Sir David Higgins in his original report HS2 Plus. If adopted the 15-year investment plan, which complements HS2 proposals, could deliver benefits for the whole of the north of England<<click through to web>>
In brief the report proposes the following:
- Increased road capacity for both freight and personal travel through extended managed motorways, addressing gaps in the network and improving links to ports.
- A very fast, frequent and high quality intercity rail network joining up city regions – including a new trans-Pennine route (tunnelled as necessary), a faster link to Newcastle and improved access to Manchester Airport.
- Improved regional rail networks to provide additional capacity and help sustain growth, interconnected with HS2 and intercity services plus local tram networks and more park and ride facilities.
- New rolling stock (as a priority), electrification of existing lines, higher service frequencies and addressing pinch-points on the rail network.
- A digital infrastructure enabling real-time information, greater network resilience and faster connections between key areas to personal and business users.
- Improved access to enable efficient freight movements by rail, road and water including ports, rail-links and distribution centres.
- Building HS2 early – extending Phase One to Crewe and bringing forwards the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.
- Improving East/West rail freight capability across the Pennines, linking major ports to north/south rail routes.
The Chancellor George Osborne, who attended and spoke at the meeting said that the plan is very much welcomed by government and that he has been impressed by its content, proposals and also the joined-up thinking and prompt actions of the northern cities. He mentioned that he would be prepared to make “new” money available to fund the proposals and that his response would be the centrepiece of his “Autumn Statement”. In November he will also announce plans for more devolved powers to major cities.
From the Chamber’s perspective the proposals are to be welcomed however the focus is very much around improving the rail network and services and there’s little about added capacity for the road – other than more managed motorway. In light of the majority of our members favouring road as their preferred mode of transport this could be disappointing. A minimum commitment might have been to have all the A1 in the region upgraded to motorway status. In addition the mention of freight is welcome as is improved access to the ports however we are unclear how much or how little discussion has taken place with the freight operators/port owners and whether therefore the proposals meet with their approval.
If you have any comments on this please contact Mark Goldstone.