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Union Connectivity Review report released

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The Department for Transport has published the final report of its Union Connectivity Review, led by Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy. It makes a series of recommendations that, it suggests, will improve transport connectivity across the UK.

The review’s primary recommendation is for the establishment of a multi-modal strategic transport network for the whole United Kingdom, known as UKNET. This would be based on a series of principal transport corridors and would support long term economic growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion, the UK Government’s levelling up agenda and net zero ambitions.

UKNET was one of the key recommendations of the Union Interconnectivity Review. (click for larger image)

To support the network, the review identified a series of transport infrastructure enhancements needed to improve capacity, reliability, journey times and sustainability on key strategic links across the UK. These, Sir Peter suggests, will support better connectivity and should be considered by the government for future investment.

The full report of the Union Interconnectivity Review.

In their report, Sir Peter Hendy and his team (Professor David Begg, Neale Coleman, Michèle Dix and Elaine Seagriff) also considered current transport policies that affect the ability of people and goods to travel between the nations of the UK.

They found that, ultimately, the movement of goods and people throughout the United Kingdom occurs with no regard for internal administrative borders. Individuals and businesses using all modes in the UK are concerned with journey times, cost, reliability, frequency and the environmental impact of their travel.

The review therefore encouraged the UK Government and devolved administrations to collaborate constructively to address the issues it identified and to support the movement of goods and people between the nations of the UK, which will improve economic growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion for all.

Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the review’s report: “Sir Peter Hendy’s review is an inspiring vision for the future of transport, which we will now consider carefully. Determined to get to work right away, we will set up a strategic UK-wide transport network that can better serve the whole country with stronger sea, rail and road links – not only bringing us closer together but boosting jobs, prosperity and opportunity.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

The UK Government should:

  1. Design and implement UKNET – a strategic transport network for the whole of the United Kingdom, and commit funding to improve the network, in particular, the parts that are not performing well;
  2. Plan improvements to the network using multimodal corridors, which should be reviewed regularly and appraised on a wider economic basis in order to support government objectives such as levelling up and net zero;
  3. Gather data on a UK wide basis to support decision making relating to the network.

    To support improved connectivity to, from and via Scotland, the UK Government should:
  4. Reduce rail journey times and increase rail capacity between Scotland and London, the Midlands and North West England by upgrading the West Coast Main Line north of Crewe and reviewing options for alternative northerly connections between HS2 and the West Coast Main Line;
  5. Seek to work with the Scottish Government to develop an assessment of the East Coast road and rail transport corridor from North East England to South East Scotland, including improvements on the East Coast Main Line and the A1;
  6. Offer funding to support the upgrade of the A75 to improve journeys between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    To support improved connectivity to, from and via Wales, the UK Government should:
  7. Work with the Welsh Government to undertake a multimodal review of the North Wales transport corridor, and develop a package of improvements focused on the North Wales Main Line (including better connectivity with HS2, and electrification), the A55, the M53, M56, and onward travel to and from the island of Ireland;
  8. Recognise the urgent need to reduce congestion on the M4 and adopt a multi modal approach to the South Wales corridor by upgrading and building new stations on the existing South Wales Main Line, supporting the Welsh Government’s package of public transport improvements and removing bottlenecks through targeted improvements at the junction of the M4/M5 to relieve congestion;
  9. Develop a package of railway improvements to increase connectivity and reduce journey times between Cardiff, Birmingham and beyond, which could include better rolling stock, timetable changes and enhanced infrastructure.

    To support improved connectivity to and from Northern Ireland, the UK Government should:
  10. Support the Northern Ireland Executive to develop, fund and implement a long term pipeline of improvements to transport infrastructure;
  11. Agree with the Northern Ireland Executive a plan and funding to upgrade the railway on the Northern Ireland corridor, including better connectivity to the three airports and seaports, and to and from Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, and examine the potential to reopen closed lines; and
  12. Provide funding and major project expertise to the Northern Ireland Executive to support their work with the Republic of Ireland relating to the All Island Strategic Rail Review and its implementation, including connectivity between Belfast and Dublin, between Derry/Londonderry and North West Ireland, and to and from the three airports and the seaports.

    Where journeys are too long to be reasonably taken by road or rail, the UK Government should:
  13. Revise existing subsidy rules for domestic aviation to allow support for routes between different regions of the UK (rather than just to and from London) and to allow multiple airlines to serve a single route;
  14. Reduce the rate of domestic aviation tax; and
  15. Intervene in the assignment of slots at London airports to provide more slots for domestic routes.

    The UK Government should:
  16. Drive the uptake of sustainable fuels and zero emission technologies on domestic aviation through a combination of incentives, tax benefits and subsidies to make the UK a world leader in developing these fuels and technologies;
  17. Support the development of sustainable aviation fuel plants in parts of the United Kingdom that are particularly reliant on aviation for domestic connectivity;
  18. Improve connectivity to seaports across the United Kingdom by enhancing rail freight connections and maximise the potential of freeports by investing in improved connectivity to and from these economic hubs; and
  19. Maintain high environmental standards on UKNET such as the provision of electric vehicle charge points, the protection of the natural environment and integration with local active travel schemes and sustainable local transport options.

CONCLUSION

The review panel reported that a recurring theme in stakeholder feedback had been the importance of getting transport right and ensuring an appropriate level of investment to facilitate this. Stakeholders were also vocal about not allowing internal administrative borders to prevent this from occurring.

The review identified gaps in the approach to pan-UK transport planning and investment. In addition, it identified specific infrastructure upgrades that would improve journeys between the nations of the UK and identified several different policy areas where UK Government intervention could improve connectivity.

Sir Peter Hendy chaired the review.

As a result, the review made a series of substantive recommendations in its report, which has now been passed to the UK Government for consideration and a decision on how best to take them forward.

On releasing the report, Sir Peter Hendy commented: “My recommendations provide comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to more growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.

“I welcome the enthusiasm shown by the Prime Minister and the government to my final report and I look forward to their formal response to my recommendations, which aim to spread opportunity and prosperity right across the United Kingdom.”

EARLY RESPONSES

Andy Bagnall, RDG.

Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, commented on the review’s recommendations: “Improvements to cross-border rail services are a vote of confidence in the role train travel will play as a quick, easy and green way to get around the country.

“To maximise the benefits of the proposed improvements and get more people taking the train to travel across Britain, government should make long-distance rail fares simpler and limit the APD cut to routes where a journey cannot be made by train in less than five hours.”

Maria Machancoses. Midlands Connect.

Maria Machancoses, CEO of Midlands Connect, added: “It’s fantastic to see government support vital infrastructure projects that will better connect the Midlands and Wales, improving access to leisure destinations, workplaces and key services.  As well as welcoming further improvements in rail connectivity between Birmingham, the Black Country, Shropshire and Mid-Wales and Birmingham and Cardiff, the report also highlights the importance of strategic roads such as the A5 and Pant-Llanymynech bypass.”

“We will now work internally and alongside partners to ensure swift progress is made in planning these improvements, so that connectivity benefits can be felt by communities as soon as possible. If implemented, the projects listed in the Union Connectivity Review will mean that lives and livelihoods can prosper across administrative borders, and that people can reach the jobs, healthcare and education they need to succeed. These links will also benefit businesses, smoothing trade, access to employees and supply chains.”

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