Steve Rotheram speaks at the launch of Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan
Can I first of all thank you for attending this event and Liverpool Life Science Accelerator for hosting it. This is one of six taking place across the North to mark the publication of the draft Strategic Transport Plan.
I think it’s particularly appropriate that we are at the heart of the Knowledge Quarter because what is happening here is a taste of our city region’s future in world-leading specialisms – repositioning us at the forefront of global innovation.
We can also learn from our outstanding history. It is fitting that this plan is launched in the city that pioneered many transport innovations:
- In 1715, we built the world’s first wet dock;
- In 1830, the world’s first passenger railway line opened here;
- The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is the longest in Britain built as a single waterway;
- We had the first under-river railway tunnel and the first overhead electric railway;
- And the world’s first transatlantic passenger service
Liverpool was the gateway to the first industrial revolution and I want our city region to become the digital gateway to the fourth industrial revolution.
We can boast a rich history – built on the pre-eminence and breadth of our transport connections – but our future will also be dictated by the quality of our connectivity.
Be that: geographical, political, environmental or educational.
Our plans to transform the economy of the Liverpool City Region are predicated on:
- Improving our transport infrastructure
- Maximising the potential of our assets (tidal, digital and human)
- And developing national and international relationships.
So we need to:
- Build the structures and capacity that will enable us to become more than the sum of our parts
- Use the new space of devolution, to think laterally and act collaboratively, in the best interests of the people of our City Region
- And join with our neighbours across the North to attract a fairer share of investment.
We have to ensure that we turn the rhetoric of a Northern Powerhouse into a tangible, deliverable reality.
Transport for the North has been created to identify and plan the transport infrastructure to properly connect the North of England.
To allow it to grow as an interdependent economy.
For the first time, elected and business leaders from all 19 local transport authorities have come together to agree the priorities for infrastructure investment necessary – between now and 2050 – to transform the Northern economy.
It can’t be right that it takes almost as long to travel from Liverpool to Newcastle today as it did in those heady days of steam.
We have to improve connectivity for the whole of the North and this strategy sets out a plan for how to do just that.
It is ambitious but, with political will, it is achievable.
The 30 year plan is estimated to cost around £2.3 billion per year which might sound like an extremely large sum of money but when compared with other single major infrastructure projects – like the £56 billion cost of HS2 alone – it starts to stack-up.
And when you consider that the South East receives £6 for every £1 spent in northern regions that total seems particularly reasonable to me.
But the prize, if we get this right, is staggering:
- 850,000 new jobs will be created across the North
- Resulting in nearly £100 billion of additional economic output
This would be transformational:
- For the Liverpool City Region
- For the North
- But also for the whole country
The North is already one of the ten biggest economies in Europe but has the capacity to achieve much more.
A better joined-up North can finally begin to counter-balance an over-heating London and the South East; which would benefit the whole country and UK plc.
The Liverpool City Region will play a vital role in that transformation.
With our 1.5 million residents, nearly 50,000 businesses and an economy worth almost £30 billion – the opportunities are huge.
So the Strategic Transport Plan identifies major priorities for investment including:
- Northern Powerhouse Rail – or Crossrail for the North – as I prefer to call it;
- Integrated, smart ticketing;
- And – it highlights seven priority investment corridors – which have been mapped on economic lines to link towns, cities and businesses
Delivering on these priorities will change the lives, fortunes and opportunities of people in our City Region forever.
At its core, this plan is about offering better life chances for every Northern resident, including those in our City Region.
The right road and rail connections – allied with increased capacity – will improve opportunities for everyone; shrinking travel-to-work times for millions of people.
Someone who lives in St Helens, Birkenhead or Runcorn would be able to pursue jobs – not just in their local area – but much further afield.
Crossrail for the North would reduce journey times with faster connections between the North’s major cities; meaning five million people would be able to reach Liverpool with a rail journey time of less than 75 minutes.
Before the last election, the Conservative party promised to prioritise Crossrail for the North ahead of London’s Crossrail 2.
But a lobby, including the former Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, emerged to make the case for pushing infrastructure investment in the South East.
And just as concerning is the appointment of Jo Johnson as both Transport Minister and Minister for London.
At this moment in time, the government’s only plan to connect Liverpool to Hull is via a Northern Forest of 50 million trees.
Now welcome though that is Crossrail for the North is simply too important for it to be kicked into the long grass (or in this case forest).
The Strategic Development Corridors detailed in this plan identify economic assets outside of the major cities which also need connecting.
The recommendation to prioritise the West and Wales Corridor would enhance our links to Cheshire and North Wales; vital for growing the economy in this part of the Northern Powerhouse.
As a Combined Authority we are already doing our bit.
We are investing £18m to fund work to reopen the Halton Curve by the end of this year.
This will result in the re-establishment of direct rail services between Liverpool, Cheshire and, ultimately, North Wales.
And it’s not just about moving people.
With the ongoing £1 billion investment in Liverpool 2, we need to ensure that goods coming in and out of our Superport can easily be moved across the North, without causing traffic chaos.
This means that we will need more capacity for rail-freight – as well as improved road links.
And of course, linking Liverpool directly to the HS2 network is vital for us to be able to do business with our nation’s capital.
This draft Strategic Transport Plan will now be published for public consultation with events taking place across the North over the next 13 weeks.
There will also be an online portal to allow people to share their views.
I really hope that all of you in this room; business and civic leaders from across our area will get involved and tell us what you think of the plan.
It is a long-term strategy.
It isn’t just about influencing decisions taken today.
As Transport for the North’s chair John Cridland has articulated, this plan sets out the investment needed over the next 30 years.
Following the public consultation, we will be formally submitting the final plan as a statutory document later this year and we will need ongoing support as we start to develop robust business cases for individual schemes.
This draft plan sets out how fairer investment can have real benefit for the whole country so that we can continue to support you to drive truly transformational change in our area.