Travellers in the North are not to get a ‘Noyster card’, a version of the London smart-card electronic ticketing system. Transport for the North, the body now in charge, has decided the technology used is out-dated.
Nor will a new east-west rail link be called ‘Crossrail for the North’ after northern leaders decided against the idea of a new line being named after one in the capital. Instead, the priority for the new chief executive and chair of Transport for the North (TfN) is to improve east-west rail links in the region – including a possible new tunnel under the Pennines.
How the so-called northern powerhouse rail line would be paid for is unclear. TfN, soon to become a statutory transport commissioning body on a par with Transport for London (TfL), has an operational budget of just £10m a year, with the ability to bid for money from a £300m infrastructure pot – a tiny fund when you consider that Crossrail in London has cost £14.8bn. Unlike its London counterpart, TfN will not have control over bus services, de-regulated outside London in 1986.
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Mike Cartwright of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said: “While we appreciate the bold aspirations being espoused by the new transport body, businesses want to see action, not words. So, while the Oyster Card technology might be out-dated, it is still better than what we currently have in the North. Businesses also won’t be bothered about what a scheme is called – as long as it simply delivers improvements. Funding is clearly going to be an issue before progress is made too.”