Political and business representatives from Transport for the North (TfN) recently met with Lord Adonis, the Chair of the new National Infrastructure Commission, in Leeds as part of his fact-finding visit to the north of England.
During the visit discussions took place between Lord Adonis, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee Councillor Keith Wakefield, local authorities leaders including Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake and regional business leaders.
Lord Adonis was accompanied by TfN’s new Chief Executive David Brown, and his visit marked the first step for TfN in its development of a strong case to the commission for pan-northern, transformational investment in transport infrastructure.
The meetings saw discussion of a wide range of topics related to connecting cities and towns in the north – the challenges, the benefits and opportunities to drive economic growth, and the supporting evidence that underpins TfN’s Northern Transport Strategy.
After the meeting, Cllr Wakefield said “Today’s meeting has been an opportunity for us to stress again the need for sustained investment to meet the growing demand in existing transport services and the large scale schemes that will deliver comprehensive and far-reaching improvements in connectivity across the north. As well as the key upgrades to east-west trans-Pennine and Calder Valley rail routes, improved road links across the Pennines and key north-south links that HS2 will deliver, his also means better connections within West Yorkshire and the City Region, such as new links to Leeds Bradford Airport that will underpin local economic growth.”
“We were very pleased to welcome Lord Adonis to Leeds to discuss his new role overseeing national infrastructure investment," said Cllr Blake. "We were heartened by his comments when taking the role of the need for real and significant transport infrastructure in the north to help rebalance our economy and reverse the trend which continues to see the north receiving a fraction of the investment given to the south. Our talks were positive so we look forward to him now making firm commitments to back up those words with actions and making a real difference to people’s lives and our economic future.”
During the visit a Call for Evidence was launched by the commission, inviting all interested parties to make submissions on its initial three areas of focus.
Engagement and consultation
Lord Adonis told the Yorkshire Post: that unlock the potential of Yorkshire's cities requires an ambitious agenda of infrastructure investment.
"Transport is linking the people and communities of this region to each other and the rest of the world. HS2 will connect eight of the 10 largest cities in the UK. Connectivity between the North and the Midlands as well as the South will be transformed, and £21bn of investment in the Northern sections of HS2 will support at least 60,000 jobs.
"These are big steps forward, but they are not big enough. Crowding on many services is no longer confined to peak times. Passengers are paying too much, squeezing themselves onto crowded trains which take too long to get to their destination. Meanwhile major roads are congested. Without additional capacity, rail and road services into city centres will act as a bottleneck on growth.
"That is why the new National Infrastructure Commission, which I chair, has been asked to work with local and regional partners, including the new Transport for the North agency, on plans to improve connections between the major cities of the North.
"We seek engagement and consultation from all who have innovative and practical ideas. The potential rewards could be transformational. Yorkshire and the Humber alone has a population of more than five million people, and the combined population of the Northern regions is greater than 10 million. That is more than London. An ambitious plan to connect the cities and towns of the North could generate a wave of new companies, enterprises and jobs.
"The ambition of Northern connectivity is about retaining the individual and distinct characters and hubs of cities and towns, whilst joining them together in a more powerful economic community. The North was the home to the Industrial Revolution; that same reforming spirit must be rekindled to unlock its next great era."