In mid-January Transport for the North launched their consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan which was issued in draft form. It is my hope that the plan will provide a fresh impetus to the Northern Powerhouse concept which gained some traction and recognition within government during George Osborne's tenure in the Treasury but has since lost its prominence in the May administration.
The plan is well worth reading and I recommend reading the sections which focus upon the seven corridors of opportunity. Of particular interest to me is the focus upon west - east connectivity which creates new opportunities for business through improved connectivity. My view is that the plan is realistic and exciting provided that it is implemented.
Private investment has already seen developments in the north west which will assist this west - east connectivity: the development of Liverpool2 in the port of Liverpool has and will increase shipping; the re-opening of shipping to inner waterways to locations like Port Salford provides alternative networks to the supply chain; and the freshly started £1 billion transformation of Manchester Airport will provide the transport network with a well located international airport linking it with routes directly into the region. Furthermore, public private investment has vastly improved the Mersey road network through the completion of the Mersey Gateway and the addition to the rail network of the Ordsall Chord has increased rail connectivity between the east and west.
The hope is that the improved connectivity with the ports of Liverpool and Hull will lead to the logistics supply chain, which supplies the north, moving to focus upon the M62 corridor. This will lead to fresh regeneration and employment opportunities for areas across the region including ones which may have previously been at the periphery of economic growth.
For the cities of the Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds there is the exciting prospect of improved transport links creating a hub or economic activity. This could potentially be transformative for a country which is dominated by its capital leading to a more geographically balanced national economy.
However, there has been scepticism from some quarters about the likelihood of successful implementation. Unlike Transport for London, the equivalent body for the North will not have statutory powers and without that the ability to generate its own income. However, it should be hoped that the plan will allow the elected mayors of the region and other city politicians to exert political pressure on central government to act decisively.
My hope is that the successful implementation of recent projects will lead to the strategy being successfully implemented to benefit the North as a whole. Where private investment has arisen, public investment should follow, leading to further private investment. And as Mark Whitworth, Chief Executive of Peel Ports has pointed out when talking about the Northern Powerhouse it is through both public and private sectors working together positively that success will arise.
"This needs to be matched by similar collaboration between the political leaderships of communities across the region," said Whitworth. "We also call on other leading businesses in the region to give their support and to look positively for the opportunities where working together can be to our collective benefit."