Plans for strategic transport improvements across the North East have been confirmed in the latest report from Transport for the North – the body set up to develop and deliver transport improvements across the region.
The report reinforces a commitment to a range of measures which will improve transport connections and the economic prospects of the North East – cementing its place at the heart of united Northern economic area capable of competing on a global stage.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Liverpool Councillor Nick Forbes leader of Newcastle City Council and lead spokesman on transport issues for the North East Combined Authority said: “I know how important good transport links are for future economic growth, and that’s why I’ve been working hard within these negotiations to get the best possible deal for the North East.
“I made sure that the report recognises the strategic economic significance of Newcastle Airport, the Port of Tyne, the East Coast Mainline and the A1, which all play a vital role in connecting our region nationally and internationally.
“Businesses and passengers will see improvements to their journey times, and the quality and frequency of rail connections. Smart ticketing and joined-up customer information will be introduced across the region. Traffic congestion and bottlenecks will be tackled.
“The report recognises that our plans are credible and deliverable. I’ll be working with other northern city leaders to keep up the pressure on Government to turn our vision into reality.”
The Transport for the North report “The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda; One Economy, One North” includes a range of proposals for the North East including:
1. A £2.7billion investment to introduce new 140mph InterCity trains on the East coast Mainline running north to south increasing capacity and speeds on one of the country’s principle rail routes. Rail journey times to and from the North East will be dramatically shorter – shaving half an hour off the fastest journey between Newcastle and Leeds and cutting the journey time to Liverpool by an hour.
2. New and better trains on all Northern franchise services – replacing outdated Pacer trains to tackle overcrowding and introducing free wifi. There will also be investments in stations and extra services.
3. Consideration of re-opening of the Leamside Line through County Durham and Washington to relieve traffic on the East Coast Mainline between Newcastle and Northallerton.
4. An upgrade of the A1 to provide continuous motorway standard between London and Newcastle – an unprecedented investment which would see the A1 upgraded to modern dual carriage way standard to Ellingham creating 34 miles of Expressway to better connect Northumberland with the rest of the country.
5. Capacity improvements to the A19 to benefit journeys to and from the North east and Tees Valley, and a commitment to ensuring motorists in the North get relief from the worst traffic jams – including widening the Newcastle Gateshead Western Bypass.
6. As part of the next generation of major road improvements consideration will be given to schemes which dramatically improve east-west connections – including significantly upgrading the A66 from Scotch Corner to the M6, and exploring options to significantly upgrade the A69 from Newcastle to Carlisle. Further dualling of the A1 to the Scottish border is also included in possible schemes beyond 2020.
7. A recognition that the £1billion private sector investment in Northern ports infrastructure such as Teesport and the Port of Tyne to meet the future needs of the shipping industry must be matched by transport infrastructure improvements. Upgrades to the A1, A19, A69 and A66 all form part of the plan to improve connections to and from Port of Tyne and Teesport.
8. A single unified smart ticketing system across the north that makes travel by rail, bus, metro and tram as simple and convenient as possible. This would include simplified customer information and a consistent approach to fares.
9. A recognition of the strategic importance of Newcastle airport which alongside Manchester serves a particular function in providing for business and leisure flights to international destinations – including as a key connector to Heathrow, Schiphol, Newark and Dubai
10. The Government will launch a review for regional airports, like Newcastle, affected by the recent devolution of Air Passenger Duty, to be published by summer 2015.