An interview with John Cridland, Chair of Transport for the North

Posted: 12 May 2017 | | 1 comment

We speak to John Cridland, Chair of Transport for the North, about what TfN and what is has planned for the future.

With Transport for the North (TfN), the body responsible for producing a cohesive transport investment strategy for the North of England, recently releasing its Spring 2017 Update Report, detailing the progress made by TfN over the last 12 months, we speak to John Cridland, Chair of Transport for the North, about TfN and what is has planned for the future.

Could you tell us more about Transport for the North and what it does?

Transport for the North (TfN) is a partnership of civic and business leaders from across the North of England, working alongside Highways England, Network Rail, HS2 Ltd. and the Department for Transport (DfT) to drive economic growth by connecting the region with robust and reliable transport links.

Last year, the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review identified the four prime capabilities (advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, energy and health innovation) which are particular strengths in the North. By joining the assets of these capabilities, which are present across the region, with reliable transport links we can transform the economy of the North, adding nearly £100 billion GVA and 850,000 jobs by 2050.

Our role is not to replace or replicate the work of existing local transport bodies, but to use powers drawn from government as part of the devolution agenda to add strategic value by ensuring that funding and strategy decisions about transport in the North are informed by local knowledge and requirements.

Congratulations on the release of TfN’s Spring 2017 Update Report. Could you tell us more about it and why it is so important?

Our Spring 2017 Update Report is the first produced and published independently from government. It provides details on the progress made by TfN over the last 12 months, as we continue to develop a ‘single voice for the North’ to improve the quality of life for people in the region by transforming transport infrastructure and helping to grow the economy.

As well as outlining the achievements and ambitions of TfN and its partners, it also provided a glimpse at an exciting year ahead, including mapping the timeline for the development of the country’s first ever pan-regional Strategic Transport Plan which is due for publication later this year.

Could you go into more detail on the achievements Transport for the North has made in the transport sector over the past year and what that means for people in the north?

Until now we have been largely working behind the scenes, gathering evidence and working with our partners to identify what needs to be done to create a plan for the North capable of delivering transformational change. Alongside our partners, we’ve been working to establish a Team North approach to transport-planning, ensuring that the needs of all the areas of the North are recognised. It’s about working together, as a pan-northern community of almost 16 million people, to ensure that our needs are seen as a priority on both a local and national scale.

Highlights of last year include the publication of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review in June 2016 (its findings continue to be used as the golden thread of all of our reports and have highlighted the region’s potential as a future major competitor in the global market, providing it is given the infrastructure it needs), confirmation that the Manchester North West Quadrant and the Northern Trans-Pennine route upgrade would be taken forward in the next Highways England investment period, publication of the independent International Connectivity Commission for the North report (which highlighted the major contribution to the economy of the North’s ports and airports and provided a series of recommendations for infrastructure upgrades which could transform the region’s connectivity and global attraction), and significant progress on development of both the Northern Powerhouse Rail network and our Integrated and Smart Ticketing scheme.

The Secretary of State has recently given his support for TfN to become the first Sub-national Transport Body in England. Could you tell us more about this and what it will mean if TfN is granted this?

In his formal response, the Secretary of State commented favourably about Transport for the North’s proposal, and our ambitious plans to transform the North’s transport infrastructure, boost the region’s economy and create jobs.

In becoming a statutory body, Transport for the North will be granted the legal powers it needs to achieve its goals, giving us the power to deliver better outcomes for passengers and transport users across the North.

We will now work with our partners through the final stages of becoming England’s first Sub-national Transport Body, with formal statutory status expected to be granted before the end of 2017.

Could you tell us more about the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review?

Transport for the North commissioned the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review on behalf of the Northern Powerhouse partners to provide a clear picture of the economic landscape of the North in a national and global context and identify the opportunities for economic growth.

It was the first time such a comprehensive report had been commissioned for the North, and it marked a landmark development in the evolution of the Northern Powerhouse.

The report identified the region’s key capabilities which could provide the foundations for closing a major gap in productivity, generating new jobs and enhancing global competitiveness. It found that digital technologies, health innovations, energy and advanced manufacturing have the potential to transform the North of England’s economy.

This independent economic review highlights the collective strength and potential of the North and will inform the work which is taking place with the government to come up with a single agreed economic strategy for the Northern Powerhouse. This will establish priorities around transport connections across and to the north; education, skills and employment; trade and investment; innovation and science and – where appropriate – housing to ensure the north can live up to its full potential.

Looking further, what future plans does TfN have in the pipeline?

We recently published our 2017/18 Business Plan which sets out how we will establish ourselves as a leading organisation in preparation for becoming the first Sub-national Transport Body in England. The plan sets out key milestones which include the publication of our Major Roads and Integrated Rail reports in late Spring which will be used to inform the development of its Strategic Transport Plan, due to be published in draft for public engagement in Autumn 2017.

We are also working with partners to identify the best options for the Northern Powerhouse Rail network which will transform train travel in the North and to further develop several major road investment schemes, including the Manchester North West Quadrant and improved Northern Trans-pennine road links. And we will be starting to explore proposals for other important route corridors which have been identified in our research.

With the ongoing development of our Strategic Transport Plan, we are bringing together a strong set of proposals which, we believe, have the potential to not only transform the travel experience in the North, but also add close to £97 billion and almost a million new jobs to our regional economy. The 30-year strategy is our vision to close the gap between the North and the rest of the country, with an emphasis on transport investment delivered over a sustained and prolonged period.


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