'Investing In Infrastructure Is No Guarantee Of Success' Says 'Head of Transport For The North' Boss

Experts Say Project Cannot Rely Solely On Transport


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John Cridland, the man appointed to head up ‘Transport for the North’, has said that investing billions of pounds on transport and infrastructure will not guarantee economic success for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’.

The former CBI chief has told the media that people should take a "leap of faith" on new roads and railways and added that reducing journey times between northern cities would improve the economy.

Experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell agreed in principle with Mr Cridland’s comments, but added that the investment on infrastructure needed to be coupled with a range of other initiatives. These include greater involvement of businesses in education policy, more enterprise zones around universities and further devolution of power within large cities.

The quango that Mr Cridland's sits on, Transport for the North, and the Chancellor's advisory ‘National Infrastructure Commission’, are both expected to announce recommendations on northern transport in the near future.

The two bodies have been looking at transport options such as a motorway through the Peak District from Sheffield to Manchester, or an HS3 rail link between Manchester and Leeds.

Environmental groups have criticised the proposals for a motorway, which would run 30 miles underground through the Peak District National Park, saying it would cause congestion and disrupt the ecology of the area.

Mr Cridland said: "I'm not claiming there is perfect science here. But I am convinced that after decades of under-investment, it's now time to close that investment gap - and it will lead to better travelling experiences and economic growth.

"Transport economics can't always prove this: sometimes, like the Victorian engineers, you have to take a leap of faith."

It is believed that both Transport for the North and the National Infrastructure Commission will focus on solutions such as electrifying the Leeds-Manchester route and putting on extra carriages.

Another option believed to be popular would be to make the M62 a ‘smart’ motorway by making the hard shoulder into a fourth lane.

Irwin Mitchell launched their UK Powerhouse report last year. The in-depth joint study with Cebr explored economic predictions for UK cities and identified a number of initiatives that the Government should focus on in order to spread economic prosperity across the UK.

Expert Opinion
“Our research revealed under the Government’s current wealth spreading proposals, the economic gap between London and the rest of the UK will get wider over the next 10 years. The Government therefore needs to adopt a more radical approach to boost the economy.

“While transport investment will play a vital role in making the Northern Powerhouse project a success, a wider package of new initiatives will be required to lessen the economic disparity within the UK.”
Niall Baker, CEO & Partner