Plans for Road Tunnel under Pennines Shelved

FT

Fixing the transport system in the north of England will cost at least £60bn over 30 years, according to Transport for the North. The strategic transport body has been backed with £260m of central government funding to try to transform transport networks across the North East, North West and Yorkshire. John Cridland, the former boss of the CBI business group who now chairs TfN, said he would unveil a 30-year plan in January. He added that, for it to succeed, the government would have to increase transport spending in the region by about a third to £150 a head. A northern citizen is £7,500 a year poorer than the English average.

The opportunity exists to close that gap over the next 30 years. This is about the north punching its weight John Cridland, Transport for the North The plan includes a new high-speed line from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle, dubbed Northern Powerhouse rail, which would include new track and station enlargements along with upgrades to existing lines at an estimated cost of about £25bn. Mr Cridland described it as the “lintel” on top of the Y-shaped HS2 line from London to Manchester and Leeds. Road investment will link ports, airports, the east and west coasts, and big population centres with seven transport corridors linking key complimentary business clusters, such as the energy businesses in Cumbria and the North East.

But plans for one of the world’s longest road tunnels — 20 miles under the Pennines, to link Manchester and Sheffield — have been shelved. There could be a short tunnel and improvements to the existing single carriageway A road between the two cities.

By next year season ticket holders will be able to use smart Oyster-style technology while by 2021 there will be full contactless payment across the bus, tram and rail network, with a £150m investment. The full plan will cost between £2bn and £2.3bn a year to implement. The government is expected to spend about £1.4bn a year in the north on current projections. TfN represents 19 regional transport authorities (RTAs), such as Merseyside and Tyne & Wear, and Mr Cridland said it was the first time they had agreed on pan-Northern priorities. The RTAs are responsible for buses, trams and other public transport in their cities or counties. But Mr Cridland said that between the RTAs and TfN, which will soon be on a statutory footing, there are sufficient powers to deliver the improvements with government money. They were “broadly comparable” with Transport for London, which runs the capital’s networks. “We provide the evidence to make the case and ministers accountable to parliament make the funding decisions,” he said. R He said the plan would boost northern productivity. “A northern citizen is £7,500 a year poorer than the English average. The opportunity exists to close that gap over the next 30 years. This is about the north punching its weight,” he said. East-west journey speeds between northern cities are around half those in the South East. “From the Romans to the Victorians roads and railways have been built north-south. But the economy of the north is more about east-west,” he said.

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, said in a speech this week that he needed greater control of transport. “Our trains are packed-out and clapped-out. Our buses are confusing and over-priced. And northern cities don’t have the power to make sense of the chaos and integrate it all,” he said. Mr Burnham is seeking powers to regulate buses, as in London. Greater Manchester has more than 40 different bus operators, with 160 different types of ticket available.