Is it too early to start talking about Christmas? I only ask because the Chancellor – not someone usually confused with Santa Claus – has just announced in his Autumn budget statement a £37m boost for development of Northern Powerhouse Rail. That's an extra £37m next financial year towards progressing the design on what could be one of the UK's most ambitious transport projects and I think that is something to get excited about.
It's true that in the greater scheme of things £37m is not a gigantic sum – to put it in context, in the same budget an extra £350m in the form of a loan for the delayed London Crossrail was announced – but it is an important signal of a continuing commitment to a project which has the potential to transform the UK economy by harnessing the power of the north.
Whenever we talk about big infrastructure projects words like 'transform' and 'revolution' get bandied around, but for once they really are justified. I was recently honoured to be appointed Chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Group for Pro-Manchester, and from this position it is absolutely clear that the Transport for the North Strategic Plan, if it is anything like as ambitious as has been suggested, has the potential to eclipse anything else that is on the horizon in terms of the benefit it can bring to the city and to the Northern region. And let's not forget how ambitious it promises to be: by creating new and improved east-west links between the key northern cities of Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, the hope is to completely rebalance an economy that has historically been chronically skewed towards the south. That could mean at least 850,000 new jobs and a boost to GVA of £100 Billion.
Are those ambitions feasible? I think so. As Project Director for CPC, with many years' experience in delivering major transport projects, I know what a difference a transport re-think can make to a place even on a small scale and, on the other hand, the damage that a failure of imagination and investment can lead to. But as someone who has worked at the blunt end, I also know that the devil is in the detail.
Big ambitions are admirable, and we are right behind them, but the step from big plans to the real experience of the average commuter, business owner or family can be a treacherous one, and that is where the expertise and in-depth local knowledge of organisations like Pro-Manchester can really make a difference.
The hope is that with the right strategic business case, government investment will be unlocked and that could mean spades in the ground by 2024. We are not there yet, but come December when the outline strategic business case is due to be delivered we could be a whole lot closer. And that would be a Christmas present well worth having.
Adam is pro-manchester's Chair of Transport & Infrastructure and a Project Director at CPC Project Services.
Adam will be chairing the Pro-Manchester Transport and Infrastructure lunch with VIP guests including Barry White, CEO Transport for the North at midday till 3pm on Tuesday 11th December 2018. It will be a lively event with over 150 guests discussing the hottest issues on transport and infrastructure for our great City and region.
Find out more online https://www.pro-manchester.co.uk/event/transport-infrastructure-lunch-2018/