22/09/2017 – Business leaders await transport transformation commitment

  • Government support for Transport for the North’s Strategic Plan will be next milestone
  • Autumn Budget represents huge opportunity for transformational announcement
  • Transport Secretary open to putting Transport for the North on a par with Transport for London

Business leaders gathered in Manchester for the Business North Autumn Forum, at which the Transport Secretary spoke, continue to wait for reassurance that the government is taking the North’s connectivity challenge sufficiently seriously according to Business North.

The business group however welcomed the Minister’s acknowledgement of the key role of Transport for the North in determining the strategic transport infrastructure plans for the region.

Chris Hearld, Chair of Business North and KPMG’s North Region Chair, said:

“Capital investment in northern infrastructure would represent a serious, strategic investment in tackling the UK’s productivity problem and rebalancing the economy.

“After today’s visit by the Transport Secretary we still await ambition from government that is in proportion with the scale of the connectivity challenge in the North. It is, however, clear that the next milestone for securing the step changes we seek will be the granting of government support for Transport for the North’s strategic plan, so it was good to hear this is firmly on the Minister’s radar.”

Phil Jones, Business North member and Chief Executive of Northern Powergrid, said:

“We are all looking forward to the forthcoming publication of the Transport for the North plan. This should represent the start point for making significant investment decisions. These need to be taken with some sense of urgency, in order to get long term plans on track.

“We continue to be of the view that giving Transport for the North greater power to make progress on this essential work needs to be a key part of the overall approach taken by government. It was therefore good to hear that the Minister will consider giving Transport for the North similar powers to Transport for London.”

Allison Page, Business North member and Office Managing Partner at DLA Piper, Leeds, said:

“We welcome the Transport Secretary’s promise to the business community in the North that his door is always open to us. He can be assured that business stands ready to work with government and Transport for the North to unlock economic potential, as outlined in the Business North three point plan. It is this wider economic context, as opposed to piecemeal investments, on which we are focused as we make our own long term business growth plans.”

Business North is a united voice, open to all northern business leaders who believe unlocking the North’s economic potential is a national priority.

In August it published a three-point plan to tackle poor connectivity in the North and invest in northern infrastructure links by calling the transport secretary to:

  • Commit to reversing the underinvestment in northern infrastructure with a programme of new investment.
  • As part of the government’s industrial strategy, modernise its project appraisal methodology by broadening the scope to include wider economic benefits, in order to prioritise unlocking new growth.
  • Move towards the further devolution of fiscal powers and decisions about transport in the North to Transport for the North and elected leaders from across the North, working with Transport for the North with a view to seeing it put on an equal footing to Transport for London in due course.

Chris Grayling was speaking at the Business North Autumn Forum: a gathering of over 120 business leaders from across the North of England.

The forum also discussed education and skills issues in the North and launched its latest call for evidence on how the skills system is holding back economic growth in the region.