In June the Chancellor outlined the vision of a “Northern Powerhouse”; a collective of the northern cities forming a global power to compete with the economy of any global city (1). The Chancellor emphasised the crucial role of Transport, Science and Innovation, Culture and Entertainment and local power and control (elected mayors) in realising this vision.
Improving transport connectivity across the North became a step closer on 5 August 2014 with the publication of the report “One North: A Proposition for an Interconnected North”. The Chancellor welcomed the publication of the report and declared the Government's commitment to work on delivering its component parts (2).
The report is a product of collaborative efforts of the leaders of Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester City Councils together with the Mayor of Liverpool and it “places a transformation of connectivity at the heart of an aim to maximise economic growth in the North”.
The report makes a number observations and by 2030 it proposes:
- The managed motorway concept can be applied to other congested sections of the strategic northern network.
- Long standing gaps in strategic links should be completed on a multi modal basis if a new road link might not be favourable given environmental constraints (for example the Sheffield to Manchester corridor).
- The rail network needs to enable longer haul trains to both reach and use the principal north-south rail corridors.
- Expanding rail terminals in the Mersey and East Coast ports to serve Irish and Continental ferry and container services, expanding trans Pennine rail capacity and capability would also provide a realistic alternative for some freight traffic on the M62.
- Victorian infrastructure including key junctions requires major investment to offer higher frequencies and interconnected services.
- Electrification of the core trans Pennine rail routes; deployment of good quality and sufficient rolling stock is an urgent primary aim for the next 5-10 years.
- A new rail-based route across the Pennines for the longer term should be examined for capacity and connectivity reasons.
- Early delivery of HS2 would help accelerate the “economic stimulus” it will bring to the North: there would be benefits in building the section linking Leeds and Sheffield early.
Further reports are expected including a report on science by the government Chief Scientist Mark Walport in September, followed in October by a report on the northern phase of HS2, including initial options for a cross-Pennine fast rail link by Sir David Higgins. This is expected to be followed in November by the Chancellor's proposals for a major devolution of civic power and responsibilities for cities with elected mayors.
The Chancellor's statements on 5 August (3) confirmed that the Government was ready to commit new money, new infrastructure, new transport, new science and "real" new civic power to the Northern powerhouse.
The Chancellor has made it clear that the Northern Powerhouse will be a centrepiece of the Autumn Statement.
(1) Chancellor's speech: www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-we-need-a-northern-powerhouse
(2) "One North" report: www.gov.uk/government/news/northern-powerhouse-chancellor-sets-out-pathway
(3) Chancellor's statement: www.gov.uk/government/news/northern-powerhouse-chancellor-sets-out-pathwayf