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'Game-changer' as Transport for the North handed powers

Transport for the North (TfN) will become the first sub-national statutory transport body on 1 April next year, the Department for Transport has confirmed.

Transport minister Jesse Norman announced that legislation will be put before parliament in the next two months to be passed into law, granting TfN statutory status from next April.

This will mean the government and other statutory organisations such as Network Rail and Highways England have to consider and respond to TfN’s recommendations on infrastructure investment in the North.

Mr Norman said the move was a demonstration of the government’s commitment to investing in the region.

“We are committed to the Northern Powerhouse, and to giving the great towns and cities of the North more say over transport investment through their umbrella body TfN,” he said.

“This government is investing the most cash for a generation in transport projects for the North.

“These new powers will give TfN far greater influence over national infrastructure decisions, as well the certainty they need to plan and drive forward projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and smart ticketing.”

Since its introduction in 2015 TfN has worked in partnership with 19 local authorities and 11 local enterprise partnerships to develop its plan for northern infrastructure.

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry branded TfN a “game-changer”, flagging that the body will have “powers to speak with one voice on northern transport projects and drive forward ambitious plans to improve transport connections and unlock economic growth across the Northern Powerhouse”. 

TfN chairman John Cridland (pictured) said the body would now provide the North with a “30-year transport strategy” that will “help to rebalance the UK economy”.

He added: “TfN gaining statutory status is an important step towards transforming the North of England and giving it the voice and powers it needs to move forward.

“Becoming a sub-national transport body means that the secretary of state of the day will take into account the North’s priorities when making transport infrastructure investment.”

TfN is developing a Strategic Transport Plan, which includes the Northern Powerhouse Rail to boost connections between cities, identifying priority road investment, and introducing contactless travel payment across public transport.

The government has so far allocated £260m for Transport for the North, which includes £60m for Northern Powerhouse Rail studies and planning, £150m for smart ticketing and contactless travel, and £50m for the running costs of TfN through to 2020.

A spokesperson for TfN said that, with statutory status confirmed, the organisation will now focus on publishing and running a public consultation on its Strategic Transport Plan, which is scheduled to be released early next year.

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