ICE welcomes Transport for the North’s call for a Northern Budget, but a regional infrastructure strategy will be required to fully utilise it.
Members of the Transport for the North Board, which includes the Metro-Mayors from across the North, have set out the case for a ‘Northern Budget’ dedicated to increasing infrastructure spending in the region.
The budget focuses specifically on increasing the availability of funds for key roads and rail projects, including Northern Powerhouse Rail. Specifically, it asks central government to make the following three commitments:
- To support a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline of road and rail projects that could be delivered by the mid-2020s
- To ensure that Northern Powerhouse Rail is built by 2040
- To allocate £1 billion for Transport for the North over the next three years to enable the delivery of its strategic vision
With the new prime minister having reinvigorated public discourse around the need to invest in the North to rebalance the national economy this is timely.
Making the most of any new investment
It's critical that investment in transport and wider infrastructure projects in the North is strategically targeted in order to make best use of it. ICE has consistently made the case for fully integrated regional infrastructure strategies to be developed to seize the opportunities that new economic geographies – like the Northern Powerhouse – present for local people and businesses. This is an approach that ICE has since restated in our latest policy paper on priorities for the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS).
Such strategies should provide an evidence-based assessment of the infrastructure a specific region requires and consider the system linkages between different networks across a region. They should also plug into the NIS and be fully compatible with neighbouring strategies recognising that infrastructure provision often crosses regional service-boundaries.
A strategic approach to infrastructure provision will ultimately result in the more effective utilisation of any future funding that is made available for the Northern Powerhouse.
The need for greater devolution of funding and powers to the city-regions
While the ICE views the devolution of powers over transport and skills to city-regions across the North as a positive step, this must also be matched with additional funding in order that they can be properly exercised. Something also highlighted in ICE’s policy paper for an effective NIS.
In the future there must also be scope for the Metro-Mayors to have greater fiscal autonomy i.e. an ability to raise more revenue for key infrastructure projects independently of central government.
Support ICE’s recommendations for the National Infrastructure Strategy
ICE will be making the case for our NIS recommendations all the way through to its publication. If you'd like to offer your support in helping us do this, please get in touch.