Manchester City Council

Unity is Strength

I know it's the budget but not going to give my predictions not least because much of it has already been given to the press anyway. Instead will return to a recurrent theme of northern transport, something I do expect to be referred to tomorrow ( that's an expectation not a prediction ).

A couple of weeks ago the specifications for the re-tendering of the Northern and Trans Pennine rail franchises were published and I think that they represent a real achievement for northern local authorities working together, in this case through Rail North. We had officers from across the North embedded in the franchising team in the Department for Transport and that ensured that the specifications reflected local knowledge. We were also able to argue consistently for specifications that went beyond simply growth but could be transformational - a strategic approach to rail rather than simply the traditional benefit-cost analysis approach - and in this we were largely successful. More services including evenings and Sundays; new and improved rolling stock, the elimination of the dreaded Pacers, and longer trains to reduce overcrowding; investment in stations; smart ticketing; improvements in customer service; all point to a better deal for northern rail users, and not before time.

Of course rail is only part of the picture. This Friday Transport for the North ( TfN ), a partnership body currently between the North's city-regions, DfT, Network Rail, Highways Agency, and HS2, is due to publish it's first report, a follow up to the northern cities One North report published last August. TfN's report will not only cover long-term investment in rail and the important relationship between HS2 and regional rail services, but also look at roads, ports,  and airports, covering passengers and freight. It's important that this does not become an election issue, other than getting all-party sign-up, because we are looking at investment plans for at least the next fifteen years. That's three parliaments and who knows how many governments and strategic transport investment planning and delivery can't chop and change with every election. That's also why that one voice of the North is so important. Building a common position on transport is beginning to transform the economic prospects of the North. We have to keep it up.

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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