I want to start with a few figures to highlight how big the Northern Powerhouse already is;
- £289bn (Economy).
- 15.1m (People).
- 395,000 (Students 2015).
- 23 (Universities).
- 19% of UK GDP.
- 1m (Businesses).
- £55bn (Exports of goods annually).
Despite this £1,620 more is spent per year, per person on transport infrastructure in London than it is in the North of England.
We need to be careful when stating statistics because as we all know, they can be manipulated to suit the situation. It is though a growing and more widely accepted fact that we need to improve connectivity across our City Regions.
Some things have already started to make an impact, the establishment of 'Transport for the North' and Rail North's role in specifying and now managing the Northern and Transpennine franchises. These bodies have provided a greater degree of co-ordination and if given the right support could drive important investment over the coming years.
Collectively we can and will grow the North, this Government can put in place the pathway that will deliver transformational growth and boost the UK economy.
The report 'Unlocking Growth in The North' identifies a five point plan, summarised below;
1. Establish transport for the North as a statutory sub-national transport body responsible for specifying and delivering a long term multi-model strategy and investment plan.
2. Transport for the North to become the commissioning body for Network Rail in the North by 2018 and have the appropriate decision making powers.
3. The Northern and Transpennine Express franchise to be fully devolved to Rail North and for Rail North and Transport for the North to unite as a single body.
4. Identify North specific public funding settlements for operation, maintenance, renewal and enhancement of railways and highway network for Control Period 6 and RIS2 to enable targeted spend.
5. To create momentum by pushing through the well-developed schemes currently awaiting government approval.
Devolution to local decision making bodies will drive growth. A long term strategy is a must, it should be driven locally and include stakeholders across all sectors.
Whether the above will be implemented I don't know but more and more businesses are now speaking out and it does feel as though momentum is building.
I recently spoke about HS2 and the need to do more to link local communities. I made a similar point in regards to the housing shortage and the likelihood that we will lose large amounts of greenbelt to allow for new housing.
All these issues are related, we shouldn't be building new roads and rail links, if we aren't considering new developments. We can't build more houses if we aren't considering how we are going to provide sufficient schools and GP practices.
Stephen Hawkins recently reiterated his belief that humanity probably only has about 1000 years left. He believes are our only hope of escaping is by finding another habitable planet.
I am not suggesting we all jump planet just yet but we do need to think about what we are leaving for future generations. If we start giving real collaborative consideration to the major decisions we are making, then may be we can leave the legacy of a smart, efficient road and rail network with interconnecting communities and the odd bit of greenery.