The government has confirmed that it will spend £13 billion on transforming transport in the north – including making major improvements to the A1, M62, M1 and A555 and looking at building a road tunnel under the Peak District.
Speaking at a keynote speech in Leeds, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that boosting growth in the north, rebalancing the economy and creating a Northern Powerhouse were a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan.
Mr McLoughlin said the election result was a massive vote of confidence in favour of High Speed 2 (HS2) and confirmed construction is on track to start in 2017. Work is also well underway on developing plans for high-speed east-west rail links.
He confirmed that £13 billion government funding would be invested to transform transport infrastructure in the north over the next five years – better connecting up the region so that northern towns and cities can pool their strengths and create a single economy, helping Britain better compete on the world stage.
And he pledged that the north will be empowered to shape its own future – by devolving power away from Whitehall. He said that by the autumn, Transport for the North (TfN) – the body established by the government to work with it on delivering a Northern Transport Strategy – will have a new independent chair to speak on behalf of the north with one voice on delivering improved train and bus services, rolling out smart ticketing, looking after passengers, reducing road congestion and speeding up links to ports and airports.
Mr McLoughlin told northern and midland leaders at Leeds Civic Hall: “Nothing is more important to this government than a healthy economy which benefits all working people. It means rebalancing our economy and building the Northern Powerhouse. We will not waste a moment getting on with the task.”
He confirmed that rolling out a national high-speed rail network – both HS2 and east to west links – would be at the centre of the government’s plans. The HS2 hybrid Bill committee will restart Parliamentary scrutiny of the bill for phase one – between London and Birmingham – shortly. The government will announce the way forward for phase two from Birmingham to Leeds and to Manchester, later this year.
Mr McLoughlin added: “The general election result was a massive vote of confidence in favour of HS2. So the argument has been won. HS2 will be built, the full ‘Y’ network, from London to Birmingham and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, with construction starting in just two years. HS2 will change the transport architecture of the north. But it will also change the economic architecture.
The Transport Secretary believes the plans will help bring the country together.
“This is the best opportunity in well over a century to level the playing field between north and south. Not by dragging London down, but by firing up the rest of the country – the east and west midlands and the new Northern Powerhouse – with transport connections that match the very best in Europe.
“We are a One Nation government that will bring our country together. That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country: from north to south, from east to west.”
Also attending the event at Leeds Civic Hall was James Wharton, minister responsible for Northern Powerhouse within the Department for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Jones, Northern Powerhouse minister at DfT, and Sir David Higgins and Simon Kirby from HS2 Ltd.