Connectivity key to realising vision for the North

The Government’s vision for the North as an economic powerhouse will not be fully realised without significant improvements in connectivity, according to ICE.

  • Updated: 11 January, 2016
  • Author: Kate Ison

In its response to the National Infrastructure Commission consultation on connecting northern cities, ICE's Northern Powerhouse Panel welcomed the drive to boost growth in the North, the progress on devolution, and the growing success of individual northern cities. But it said the North would struggle to compete internationally as single economic zone without faster, more frequent transport services between cities and within cities, and better connections to outer city areas where universities, science parks and manufacturing bases are located.

The Panel backed a mix of small scale investments and more transformational transport projects to address the North's connectivity weaknesses, but warned against progressing individual projects in isolation. It urged Government to adopt a "whole network" approach, where investment is based on a comprehensive, integrated strategy.

It also suggested Government reviews the appraisal methods used to determine whether a transport project delivers value for money, to capture the real economic impact on a region.

Richard Threlfall, chair of the ICE panel and Head of Infrastructure at KPMG, said: "The benefits of integrated connectivity are far reaching – it facilitates the fast and easy exchange of people, goods, knowledge, skills and services, and enables access to health services, education and leisure. It creates thriving economic hubs, or powerhouses, that can compete internationally.

"The growth opportunity for the North of England is huge, but it will simply not fully prosper as one economy without significant improvements in connectivity. There is much to be done – spend on new transport infrastructure in the North has lagged behind London and average spend across the UK regions for decades. But it's not just about investment; we need to think differently about how and where investment is allocated, we need to adopt a more strategic approach which considers the entire network and delivers maximum benefit.

"We would also like to see a host of system improvements driven forward - such as an integrated ticketing system for the North, simpler fare structures and integrated timetables. Relatively quick and low cost improvements like this will enable the North to look, feel and operate as a single economic powerhouse, he said."

View ICE's full response:

Notes to editors

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is a leading source of professional expertise in transport, water supply and treatment, flood management, waste and energy. Established in 1818, it has 88,000 members, 25% of whom are based overseas. ICE’s vision is to place civil engineering at the heart of society, delivering sustainable development through knowledge, skills and professional expertise. ICE has long worked with the government of the day to help it to achieve its objectives, and has worked with industry to ensure that construction and civil engineering remain major contributors to the UK economy.