The North of England has become the first UK region to be given control over local infrastructure spending, after the government handed unique powers to business leaders and local authorities.
From April 2018, Transport for the North (TfN) will have new powers to create a separate transport strategy for the North of England, fund regional infrastructure projects and be consulted on local rail franchises. Any recommendations made by TfN must be considered by policy makers.
Formed in 2015, TfN is a partnership of 19 local authorities, business leaders and 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs). Going forward, TfN will help determine top areas of priority for transport in the region and lobby for these issues to the Transport Secretary.
The delegation of powers is the first of its kind in the UK and was touted as a “game-changer” by Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry.
Is the Northern Powerhouse initiative working? This data suggests not
Berry claimed that TfN’s new statutory status would “drive forward ambitious plans to improve transport connections and unlock economic growth across the Northern Powerhouse.”
The government also confirmed the delivery of £18.5m into a “smart ticketing” programme, which would allow TfN to introduce paperless, smart card season tickets for Northern and TransPennine Express and Merseyrail passengers by the end of 2018.
Welcoming the new powers, John Cridland, independent chair of TfN, said: “TfN gaining statutory status is an important step towards transforming the North of England and giving it the voice and powers it needs to move forward.
“This is a 30-year transport strategy for the North that will help drive economic growth in the region and help to rebalance the UK economy.”
Speaking on behalf of the government, transport minister Jesse Norman said it remained “committed” to the Northern Powerhouse.
“These new powers will give TfN far greater influence over national infrastructure decisions, as well the certainty they need to plan and drive forward projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and smart ticketing,” he said.
The government has confirmed funding worth £260m will be made available to support growth in the North, with £150m for smart ticketing, £60m for Northern Powerhouse Rail, and £50m to run TfN.
Government urged to create a “digital revolution” for the Northern Powerhouse
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.