Infrastructure investment for the north is even better for the whole UK

Thursday’s excellent Northern Transport Summit organised by DevoConnect featured the phrase ‘for the North’ so often that it sometimes felt like a Game of Thrones episode from the heart of Winterfell.

I just have one plea – lets talk more about these plans and proposals under the banner of ‘for the UK’ because the solution is the same.

What the UK needs to drive successful long-term sustainable growth is a more balanced economy, a better connected North and certainty and trust in decisions made by politicians.

The infrastructure investment that was proposed and talked about at the #NTS2024 summit can help deliver growth for the whole UK, it’s not just about what’s good for the North.

I’d like us to just change the conversation a bit.

We need to ensure policy-makers and politicians in Whitehall and Westminster realise proper investment in the North is in the whole UK’s interests and not a subsidy or charity handout.

As Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s Chief Exec Henri Murison said about transport improvements – the investment is about generating economic outcomes and growth. It’s not just having better transport as an end in itself.

Back to the summit. It was a great event. Meaningful devolution to city-regions is enabling elected and empowered Metro Mayors to lead and collaborate. This is ensuring that the North – in its many and varied parts – can play a really effective role in delivering national growth.

Change is happening

  • It’s the city-region Mayors – Labour’s Andy Burham in Manchester and the Conservative Andy Street in the West Midlands – who are coming up with a positive and practical solution to UK Government’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2
  • A collaborative approach to bringing buses back into public ownership with local accountability is seeing administrations in Yorkshire and Liverpool learn from the developing Bee Network in Manchester
  •  Wider collaboration networks across not just transport issues, but also energy, people and place and trade and investment are already in place. (I’m hoping Tees Valley and the new North East authority are/will be fully plugged in too)
  • Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission talked about the need to rebalance investment towards the North and the Midlands. The National Infrastructure Commission and Transport for the North are now giving Government the data and the compelling reasons as to why that is essential for the UK

PS – for the record the summit was held at Manchester Airport, not Winterfell, and no-one talked about winter coming at any point – quite the opposite.

A breath of fresh air to see elected politicians and those working with them talking sense with such purpose, clarity and passion.

And the trains to Manchester from Durham even ran on time in both directions with seats available. The gods of the seven kingdoms were truly smiling on us all.

Photo credit: HBO / Game of Thrones