On behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), transport secretary Mark Harper MP has introduced a series of new funding opportunities for transport projects and networks across the North of England.
In the announcement, Harper described Transport for the North as a ‘valued partner’ in its efforts, and that it is committed to ‘redoubl[ing its] efforts to boost connectivity, accelerate devolution and revive former industrial heartlands into new engines of economic growth.’
National Bus Strategy, which Harper said ‘transfers greater control over fares and timetables to local authorities, while giving operators the freedom to invest and innovate.’
Harper added that the North-East and North of Tyne’s Bus Service Improvement Plan will be receiving £118m this year to improve services, in alignment with the national strategy.
In terms of rail improvements, DfT will be implementing single-leg pricing for tickets across the LNER network to make passenger experiences more flexible.
What’s more, the Tyne and Wear Metro will see an investment of more than £300m to provide a new fleet of modern trains.
The Northumberland Line will also be reopened next year, with the DfT making funding available to build six new stations across the route. It is hoped this will connect towns and communities across the region, and will be delivered in partnership with Northumberland Council.
In addition to this, the government has also committed to the £96bn Integrated Rail Plan, which is intended to deliver high speed rail to Manchester and transform journeys across the Pennines.
Other planned work as part of the upgrading of rail infrastructure will include a combination of electrification, track replacement and modern signalling, DfT has said. This is to promote faster and more efficient journeys for passengers and is part of the major upgrade to the 70-mile (112km) Trans-Pennine route.
More than 75% of the North is now covered by devolution deals, including the North-East, which will form a new mayoral combined authority under a single mayor, with a £1.4bn settlement being allocated to fund local projects.
So far, through the Levelling Up Fund and Sustainable Transport Settlements, the UK government reports it has made more than £3bn in funding available for regional transport upgrades. This will cover work on the Sheffield Supertram, more cycling and walking schemes in the Tees Valley, and better bus routes between Leeds and Wakefield.
To increase regional powers in the transport planning and development process, the government has also established Treasury North in Darlington. The National Infrastructure Bank and a DfT office in Leeds.
To support accelerated adoption of electric vehicles, Harper likewise confirmed £56m in public and industry funding to ensure local authorities can transform the availability of charging infrastructure.
Harper stressed that ‘we cannot overlook the North-East’s critical role in this future of clean travel’ when announcing the new funding and infrastructure projects.