With so little strategic planning for transport in the North for years, suddenly, like buses, three reports come along at once.
Transport for the North's spring update to the Northern Transport Strategy provides plenty more detail on its main priorities and some vital work on how transport supports the North's economic strengths. The National Infrastructure Commission's High Speed North report makes a powerful case for a so-called HS3 network linking up Manchester, Leeds and other major cities. And on Wednesday, the Chancellor was quick to respond with Budget promises of over £300 million to 'kick-start' Trans-Pennine connections.
Money for very necessary feasibility studies is welcome, but this can't be the limit of government funding for the north – the chancellor is ramping up expectations which will now have to be satisfied when it comes to Control Period 6 and Road Investment Strategy 2 later in this parliament. And the National Infrastructure Commission was right to highlight the urgency of projects like the M62 and Trans-Pennine electrification that can be fast-tracked immediately.
But transport investment has to be for a real purpose. Beyond a Northern Transport Strategy we must develop a Great North Plan to align transport, energy, housing and other key drivers of economic growth into a coherent strategy for the North – like in most European regions.
This is not only critical for creating momentum and bringing people together – but IPPR North research shows this would play a key role in attracting international investment.
IPPR North will soon publish its blueprint for a Great North Plan, we hope it will be supported.