Connecting the North
Against the backdrop of the Conservative Party Conference Pro-Manchester’s recently emerged ‘Transport and Infrastructure Sector Group’ hosted an event looking at the reality of the Northern Powerhouse.
Against the fizz at the Conference, we positioned this event, held at Arup’s Manchester office, to be for regional business people and political leaders talking about northern economic growth.
Guest speakers Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and Chair of Transport for the North (TfN), and Dave Newton, Transport for Greater Manchester Strategy Director, discussed how a better connected North can be the driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse.
Sir Richard compared the scale of our individual City Regions of up to 3m people with Chinese mega cities of 15 to 20 million (such as Chongqing and Chengdu), which cover an area comparable to a triangle from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle. The point being the North as a whole (population 15 million, greater than New York, Tokyo or London) needs to come closer together as a coherent and cohesive economic entity, rather than as a series of loosely connected City Regions and shires.
Dave Newton pointed to the inadequate transport links across the region. It is this connectivity deficit which badly constrains economic activity. By way of contrast, the Central Line on the London Underground, end to end, is comparable to the distance between Leeds and Manchester, yet that will soon be running 24/7 and has trains throughout the day running every few minutes. The economic prize for the North is enormous: Estimates suggest the GVA across the North of £290bn, could increase by £44bn per year with the right transport connectivity.
Of course, it’s not only rail which is important – strategic road networks, surface access to regional airports, as well as ports and freight, are all also hugely important elements within the Transport for the North proposals.
Clearly a lot of work is needed, but it is clear that radically enhanced connectivity between our great Northern cities will be the foundation on which the Northern Powerhouse is built.