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Cumbrian leaders launch plan to transform the region

George Beveridge

[P]lans for future transport investment in Cumbria and the wider North of England have been outlined today at an event marking the publication of a thirty year plan to drive economic growth.

Cllr Keith Little from Cumbria County Council and George Beveridge, Chair of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership launched the plan at Carlisle College’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre. Advanced Manufacturing is one of four regional strengths which have been identified as vital to transforming the Northern economy and the recently opened centre at Carlisle College is delivering an employer led curriculum at all levels in the engineering, manufacturing and processing sectors.

Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan is the first of its kind and outlines how connections across the North of England need to be improved to drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England. The public are now being asked to share their thoughts on the proposals through a thirteen-week consultation.

Aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy through a sustained 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, the plan could deliver a £100 billion boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

Cllr Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Fleet, said, “I am delighted Transport for the North is launching its Strategic Transport Plan consultation here in Carlisle. Cumbria is an important part of the northern economy, but improved transport infrastructure is critical in supporting businesses, local communities and our future economic growth.

“We’ve worked closely with Transport for the North to help develop this plan and we’re very keen to hear what people and businesses in Cumbria think of it. It’s important that Cumbria speaks with one voice on these issues and presents a compelling and unified argument in favour of the investment the county, and the region, needs. This is great opportunity and we intend to grasp it.”

Transport for the North is working to make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region, increasing access to jobs, supporting businesses and improving the movement of freight and goods across the North and to its ports and airports. Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims.

The ‘Connecting the Energy Coasts’ corridor will improve connectivity between some of the UK’s important non-carbon energy and research assets in Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, the North East and Tees Valley and ‘North West to Sheffield City Region’ will focus on strengthening rail links between advanced manufacturing sites in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region, with improved connectivity from the North in to Scotland.

Whilst a full list of the improvements which will be needed has not yet been published, emerging priorities include major improvements to the A590 and A595 road routes and to the Cumbrian Coast railway line and upgrading West Coast Mainline stations to ensure they are ready for the arrival of HS2.These are in addition to the baseline investment assumptions set out within the plan.

John Cridland, Transport for the North Chairman, said, “The North is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. We have vibrant communities, buzzing cities, five stunning national parks, an abundance of talent and a wealth of high-performing businesses. Transport for the North’s vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.

“For the first time, civic and business leaders and transport operators are speaking with one voice on transport to make sure the North fulfils its potential. Our plan proposes a revolutionary investment programme that will make it possible to travel to high quality jobs. This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the North and ensuring we meet that historic gap in investment.”

Alongside the corridors, Transport for the North has for the first time outlined its emerging vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a rapid, reliable and resilient rail network between the North’s six biggest cities and other economic centres. This is accompanied by an updated Rail Strategy for investment in the North’s existing lines, stations, services and franchise operations, reflecting the planned integration of Rail North into Transport for the North in April this year.

In the short-term, Transport for the North has commenced a rolling programme from now until 2021 to introduce integrated and smart ticketing across the North of England. This will make paying for and planning travel much easier.

The investment priorities are backed up by research that links the North’s prime capabilities in advanced manufacturing, digital, energy and health innovation. The cost of the 30-year plan is estimated to equate to less than £150 per northern citizen per year, or £2-2.3 billion per year.

This figure also includes spending which would already be expected as part of ongoing strategic transport investment in the North, with only £50 per person per year (£700-900 million per year) additional spending. Regional spend figures issued by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority for the four years from 2017 calculated that projected Government spend on strategic transport will be £1,039 per head for the three Northern regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber).

The public consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan will run until 17 April 2018 with engagement events taking place across the North, including in Kendal on 21st February, Carlisle on 22nd February, Barrow-in-Furness on 26th February, Whitehaven on 27th February, Blackpool on 19th March and Lancaster on 20th March. A final version of the plan will be published later in the year and submitted to the Government for ministerial consideration.

Find out more by visiting www.transportforthenorth.com.

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