The Government’s vision for the North as an economic powerhouse will not be fully realised without significant improvements in transport connectivity, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
In its response to the National Infrastructure Commission consultation on connecting northern cities, ICE’s Northern Powerhouse Panel welcomed the drive to boost growth in the North, the progress on devolution, and the growing success of individual northern cities, like Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield. But it said the North would struggle to compete on the global market as a single economic zone, without better transport links.
The Panel backed a mix of small scale investments and transport projects to address the North’s connectivity weaknesses, but warned against progressing individual projects in isolation. It urged Government to adopt a “whole network” approach, where investment is based on a comprehensive, integrated strategy.
It also urged the Government to review the appraisal methods used to determine whether transport projects deliver value for money, to capture the real economic impact on a region.
Richard Threlfall, chair of the ICE panel and Head of Infrastructure at KPMG, said: “The benefits of integrated connectivity are far reaching – it facilitates the fast and easy exchange of people, goods, knowledge, skills and services, and enables access to health services, education and leisure. It creates thriving economic hubs, or powerhouses, that can compete internationally.
“The growth opportunity for the North of England is huge, but it will simply not fully prosper as a one economy without significant improvements in connectivity. There is much to be done – spend on new transport infrastructure in the North has lagged behind London and average spend across the UK regions for decades. But it’s not just about investment; we need to think differently about how and where investment is allocated, we need to adopt a more strategic approach which considers the entire network and delivers maximum benefit.
“We would also like to see a host of system improvements driven forward – such as an integrated ticketing system for the North, simpler fare structures and integrated timetables. Relatively quick and low cost improvements like this will enable the North to look, feel and operate as a single economic powerhouse.”