Strategic approach builds on £36 billion funding from Network North plan to help strengthen connections across the UK
Today (7 December 2023), I am pleased to announce the UK government’s response to Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill’s independent Union Connectivity Review.
The UK government has a responsibility to people, businesses and communities throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Our central mission is to deliver sustainable growth and spread opportunity right across the country. Ensuring that we have an accessible, well-connected transport system provides the foundation for achieving this goal and will support every part of the UK in reaching its potential. Our announcement today builds on our £36 billion Network North plan, helping to strengthen connections right across the UK.
Devolution has effectively supported the delivery of many place-specific transport priorities that meet the needs of local communities. It has empowered leaders to deliver solutions for their areas and brought decisions closer to the people affected by them. But it is only the UK government that can take an overview of our entire strategic transport network. To support this, the UK government asked Lord Hendy to lead the independent Union Connectivity Review, the first UK-wide multi-modal strategic transport assessment in a generation.
The Union Connectivity Review, and our response to it, takes a strategic approach to transport. It recognises that people’s daily journeys – for work, business, leisure, education and health reasons – and the daily movement of goods regularly cross administrative boundaries. And it recognises that, as the government for the whole of the UK, we should take a strategic approach to make those journeys work for people and business and to strengthen vital transport connections across our country. On behalf of the UK government, I would like to thank Lord Hendy and his expert panel for their excellent work and thank the many organisations and individuals who contributed to it.
Many of Lord Hendy’s recommendations relate to issues where responsibility for transport is devolved. Where this is the case, we have worked, and will continue to work, collaboratively with the devolved administrations. While Lord Hendy’s recommendations do not bring forward detailed infrastructure proposals, they do point to further work to identify where, when and what to invest in to improve connectivity and unlock growth opportunities.
In response to the Union Connectivity Review’s recommendations, we have developed a programme of priority actions to drive forward important work identified by Lord Hendy. We have prioritised actions where we can quickly provide support for promising UK connectivity projects, strengthen working relationships with the devolved administrations and establish the building blocks for future UK connectivity schemes. Any future investment decisions will be subject to business case.
As well as the billions being redirected from HS2 to invest in transport infrastructure and drive better connectivity, and millions of pounds of funding for reserved transport policy areas, we are designating up to £23 million of funding support for feasibility studies in devolved areas of transport responsibility in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This work will put us, devolved administrations and local and regional partners in a strong position to assess which schemes could deliver the greatest benefits to people and businesses across the UK, informing future investment decisions about which could be progressed in the long term.
Our priority actions, which include but move beyond our Network North commitments, are:
For Wales Connectivity
providing an unprecedented £1 billion investment to fund the electrification of the North Wales Main Line, bringing parts of North Wales within an hour of Manchester and bringing more punctual and reliable journeys on the 105-mile route between Crewe and Holyhead, with connections to Liverpool, Warrington and Wrexham
delivering the Midlands Rail Hub in full, with investment increased to £1.75 billion to improve journey times, increase capacity and boost frequency of services, benefitting those travelling between Cardiff and Birmingham
providing £2.7 million to Transport for Wales to develop options for upgrades to the South Wales Main Line, including new stations between Cardiff and the Severn Tunnel and increased services between Bristol and West Wales
providing £700,000 to Transport for Wales to study options for upgrading Shotton and Chester stations and increasing capacity on the North Wales Main Line
For Scotland Connectivity
committing funding to deliver targeted improvements to the A75 between Gretna and Stranraer, starting with providing £8 million to the Scottish Government to support their business case development
committing funding for dualling the A1 between Morpeth and Ellingham, helping to improve an important route between England and Scotland
funding Network Rail to study options for enhancements to improve capacity and journey times on services between England and Scotland
For Northern Ireland Connectivity
providing £3.3 million to Translink to deliver a study on the cost, feasibility and value for money of electrification of the railway in Northern Ireland from Belfast to border
funding Translink to deliver a £700,000 feasibility study on reopening the Antrim-Lisburn railway line, with an additional stop at Belfast International Airport
providing £800,000 to Translink to deliver a feasibility study on reinstating the Portadown to Armagh railway line
Across the UK
reforming domestic aviation policy by changing Public Service Obligation (PSO) policy to allow PSOs to operate to and from different regions of the UK, rather than just to and from London as is currently the case
reinforcing our commitment to work in partnership with the devolved administrations through a newly relaunched Inter-Ministerial Group for Transport
As outlined in Network North, some of these projects will be subject to business case approvals.
This programme will not be carried out in isolation. It will be supported by significant long-term work across the UK to deliver fundamental transport connectivity improvements. It will build on other UK government initiatives, such as Network North, the Levelling Up Fund and Investment Zones, that support sustainable growth, increased prosperity and improved productivity across the UK. It will build on our approach to planning that considers land use and transport infrastructure together to deliver the widest possible benefits and unlock greater opportunity. And it will build on the UK government’s commitment to work constructively and collaboratively with the devolved administrations across the UK to deliver on our shared ambitions.
Wherever you live, a better-connected UK will bring you closer to social and economic opportunities. That is why the UK government is determined that our transport infrastructure supports levelling up, brings communities across the UK even closer together and facilitates economic growth by increasing access to skilled labour and opportunities. Our response to the Union Connectivity Review marks an important step in increasing UK connectivity, supporting growth and delivering the strong, reliable transport connections people depend on every day.