A series of road and rail schemes could be underway later this year in the north of England. Enhancing and supporting the region’s economy and growth is now a top priority.
Transport for the North (TfN) has written an open letter to the government calling for “rapid” investment in transport. Forming part of the ‘Economic Recovery Plan’, the funding would be used to help rebuild the region post-COVID-19.
The letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps outlines 13 schemes as part of the Northern Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP). TfN believes the Economic Recovery Plan must reflect the challenges of COVID-19, with a particular focus on road and rail improvements.
Barry White, chief executive of TfN, said: “COVID-19 has had a profound effect on our people, businesses and economy and it’s essential that we take action to support their recovery by investing in our region now, and over the coming months and years.
“Through a sustained Northern Infrastructure Pipeline of transport schemes we can provide immediate confidence and set the north on the path to future growth. That’s now more important than ever.”
Fast-track funding for the north
One aim of the letter is to secure fast-track funding to kick-start TfN’s plans as quickly as possible. The letter states: “We have received 150 projects from across the north for consideration and we are assessing these to recommend a full list of multi-modal interventions to TfN’s board meeting on the 29th July.
“However, we have also identified early examples of investment that can be advanced quickly. These include road and rail improvements, flexible smart rail ticketing and proposals for sustained investment in active travel and wider connectivity through non-urban high-speed broadband.”
Transport investment to help COVID-19 recovery
As part of the Northern Powerhouse initiative encourages increased devolution to the north. This means people living and working in the north have more power and autonomy. As part of this, Transport for the North was born as a sub-national transport body focusing solely on the north.
According to the letter, this is even more relevant now as the country begins to recover from recent events.
The letter states: “The impact of the COVID-19 crisis reinforces the call of our Board over the past year for a devolved ’Northern Budget’ – allowing for investment decisions to be made by the people who live and work in the North of England.”
“Decision-making at a regional level will deliver accelerated investment, increase competitiveness and help stimulate economic growth. Our members feel that now, more than ever, is the time to enact such change.
Travel improvements to boost housing market
The UK housing market was forced to partially close once the UK went into lockdown in March. Figures show that many aspects, such as buyer appetite, available stock and the rental market, are already showing signs of recovery. As always, there is a north-south divide, with much of the north’s housing sector performing strongly right now.
Any investment in transport, infrastructure and connectivity is a boost to the local property market. Buyers tend to gravitate towards areas with easy access to jobs and amenities. Likewise, tenants in the private rented sector prioritise transport options when seeking accommodation.
Therefore, the boost that TfN is hoping for will add further support to the recovery of the north’s housing market. According to TfN, investing in infrastructure is critical to achieving “the vision of a globally competitive environment that can sustain economic growth, making the North a more attractive and buoyant marketplace”.
TfN’s board of political and business leaders will assess the full plan at a meeting on 29th July. The hope of the letter, though, is to secure additional government funding sooner to get things moving in the north.