Unveiled: The road to economic success?

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Tees mayor Ben Houchen Transport for the North chief executive Barry White (second left) and Darlington Council leader Bill Dixon (second right). Picture: TOM BANKS

A major upgrade of the A66, a new River Tees road crossing, improved rail links – including a connection to the new HS2 line – and more contactless ticketing are all vital to boosting the economic prospects of Teesside and the wider North, says a new 30-year Strategic Transport Plan.

Transport for the North (TfN) – a partnership of civic and business leaders from across the north of England – unveiled its Strategic Transport Plan at a launch event in Darlington on Tuesday.

Proposals to give Teesside better connections with the rest of the North are included in the 95-page report.

TfN claims the 30-year plan could deliver a £100bn boost to the economy and 850,000 jobs by 2050 as it bids to “drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England.”

The report says “emerging priorities” for the Tees area include major improvements to the A66 and A19.

Other priorities include ensuring Darlington and other stations are ready for the arrival of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail and providing a new River Tees road crossing.

The report was unveiled at Darlington Station, which is due for a major revamp to create “a modern rail hub for a modern economy” by 2025.

Other short-term proposals include “integrated and smart ticketing” across the North – best described as an Oyster card for the region – to make paying for and planning travel easier. This would start in major cities and the busiest routes.

Also unveiled were plans for a new road connecting the North-East with the North-West, possibly with a tunnel beneath the Pennines.

The Great North Rail Project – Network Rail’s programme of improvements to transform train travel in the north – will include a TransPennine route upgrade to reduce journey times and increase capacity between Manchester, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. New junctions in the Leeds area will help connect the North-East to HS2.

The 30-year plan will cost at least £60bn, which TfN say equates to less than £150 per northern citizen per year.

This figure also includes spending already expected as part of ongoing strategic transport investment in the North of £50 per person per year (£700m-900m per year) additional spending.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “We have set our own priorities locally of what we want to see and Transport of the North have then adopted our plans.

“This gives us an even louder voice when going to Government to say we need funding, need assistance, and our schemes need prioritising when it comes to the Department of Transport investing in road and rail network schemes.”

He added: “We are going to submit our 30-year plan to the Government. It means £150 per person in the North to go towards transport in the North.

“That means we can get a new Tees crossing, our priorities around the Darlington bypass, Darlington Station, but it also means connecting the east coast with the west coast, making our ports better connected, dualling the A66 across to Cumbria, Northern Powerhouse rail and a potential bypass to the M62. There are huge opportunities.”

Public consultation on the plan will run until April 17, with an engagement event taking place in Stockton on March 4. A final version will be submitted to the Government later in the year.

Visit www.transportforthenorth.com for more details.


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