Having committed to a £300m investment to ‘future-proof’ the North’s rail network at the party conference in October, it was positive to see the Chancellor, in his budget speech, commit to a £1.7bn fund to "Transform Cities", even if this continues to be a paltry sum by comparison to planned expenditure in London and the South East. Half of the fund is to be available to the five Metro Mayors, which includes the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotherham. The rest will be available for other cities.
The North West has all the talent and expertise to truly compete on a global stage. Where it’s at a disadvantage is how spread out it is compared to Greater London, which has a far more centralised workforce and work place (thanks in no small part to the imbalance in where public infrastructure investment has been made over many decades). The key to unlocking the potential of the North West region is equipping it with a world-class transport network that interconnects our economic hubs – Liverpool and Manchester, of course, but also the likes of Preston and Bolton – into one entity and one talent pool that can compete on a global stage.
The ‘future’ is where we need to be looking as far infrastructure is concerned. It has been important in the past to emphasise how the North can catch up with the South. We will need to continue to stress this, but why not be more ambitious as we look to the future. Why don’t we in the North look to leap frog other parts of the country by investing in new, ground-breaking technology? We’ve seen Hyperloop state its interest in bringing the ‘Northern Arc’ to our region. This would see passengers transported from Manchester to Liverpool in minutes. Automated and autonomous lorries have also been tested. These could be a much-needed shot in the arm for freight transport in the North. Can the North become a centre not just for the automation of its infrastructure, but also for the technology and innovation to make it happen.
I look forward to seeing the Metro Mayors working together within the framework of the Northern Powerhouse and Transport for the North. If investment can be made in a collaborative way with intelligence, we can modernise and better our transport infrastructure, create a connected North with access to a broader talent pool and at the same time enable technological centres of excellence in transport infrastructure and supply chain logistics to be nurtured in the North West creating long term sustainable business and wealth for future generations.
Liverpool city region is to get access to a £1.7bn Transforming Cities fund to boost transport infrastructure.