Combined groups welcome government investment

Highways Reporters

The heads of Midlands Connect and Transport for the North (TfN) have welcomed the Government’s commitment to the combined transport groups in the Autumn Statement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that TfN will continue to work with the Department for Transport on the development of the Northern Powerhouse Rail network to revolutionise the region’s railways. In the Northern Powerhouse Strategy it was announced that much-needed investment to transform important east-west road links across the North will be allocated.

In the early 2020s, work will commence to improve connections around the M60 area north-west of Greater Manchester, improving a vital strategic route onto the M62, M66 and M61 and addressing one of the most congested areas on the nation’s road network. The Chancellor also confirmed plans to upgrade the A66 between Penrith and Scotch Corner, providing a much needed new dual carriageway between Cumbria and the North East. In addition to this, funding is being allocated to tackle pinch points on the A69 and the Government is considering other road routes across the Pennines.

Chair of Transport for the North, John Cridland, said: “The Government’s recognition of the need to invest in the North to help unleash its huge potential is very welcome. One of the major hindrances for the North is poor transport infrastructure, particularly east-west links. That’s why we are developing Northern Powerhouse Rail, a network which will revolutionise train travel for passengers and freight, and it’s why we’re working with our partners to identify all of the major roads in the North which are vital for the growth of the region’s economy. The improvements announced today are a good first step in building the transport links needed to transform the North.

“Transport for the North is seeking statutory status to become England’s first Sub-national Transport Body next year. This will put us in the position to develop and implement our Strategic Transport Plan for the North. The plan will outline the transport improvements needed over the next 30 years to transform the North’s economy. We look forward to now ensuring this plan aligns with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Strategy.”

The chairman of Midlands Connect, Sir John Peace, has welcomed the Government’s £5 million investment for improving transport networks across the region.

The funding received in the Autumn Statement follows the £12 million pledge announced at the 2016 Conservative Party Conference in October, to enable Midlands Connect to develop the transport links needed to power the Midlands Engine, which in turn will deliver increased productivity across the region and boost its economic output. The transport organisation wants to improve connectivity between communities in the East and West Midlands and unlock capacity on rail and road networks to ease transport disruption to people and business.

Sir John Peace said: “The £5 million announced by the Chancellor in support of Midlands Connect is greatly welcomed for developing the rail networks. This in addition to the UK-wide infrastructure commitment shows the Government recognises that strong infrastructure creates a stronger economy. Our funding will be vital, not only in helping to lay the groundwork for improved connectivity and greater levels of investment in our transport network, but also as a sign of the confidence the government has in our region to shape our own prosperous economic future.

“The Midlands Engine region is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, attracting more inward investment and creating more start-up businesses than anywhere outside the capital.

“As a huge driver for growth, investing in further connectivity – road, rail and air as well as digital infrastructure can benefit the entire country. Major infrastructure projects like HS2 present a once in a lifetime chance and one of our main roles at Midlands Connect is to make the most of that opportunity.

“We will continue working closely with the Government to press on with plans for improvement and in March 2017 we will be releasing our final strategy which will set out our recommendations on how the Midlands will establish itself and the UK, as a competitor on a global stage.

“With a population of 11.5m, 14 cities, 27 universities, two international airports and a third of the UK’s manufacturing jobs the economic potential of the Midlands is self-evident.”
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