The North East Transport Plan, first revealed in November 2020, features almost 300 schemes that it is hoped can be delivered over the next 15 years and create or sustain 100,000 jobs – if the Government agrees to fund it.
That wishlist includes new bus stations for Alnwick and Blyth, major upgrades to the A1 and A19, and the reopening of the Newcastle-to-Northumberland railway line.
Around 3,400 people have now had their say on the proposal, after an eight-week consultation that ended last week, and North East politicians say it is vital to combating a “stark imbalance” with other areas – especially London.
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However, some have claimed that the giant plans are still not ambitious enough, with environmental activists labelling the proposals “business as usual” and calling for more radical thinking to promote walking, cycling, and public transport over car use.
And just last week, one of the region’s key transport ambitions was dealt a major blow – with the Government removing more than £100million of funding for contactless smart ticketing systems across the North.
Martin Gannon, chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and Gateshead Council leader, said: “Historically the North East has seen shocking levels of transport spend per head when we compare this to other areas of the country. This plan shows how, if we’re able to achieve a similar level of spend per head, we will be able to resolve this stark imbalance and lead a green transport revolution for the North East.
“Throughout the consultation, we’ve seen very clearly just how passionate people are about public transport, walking and cycling, our road network and more, and I want to personally thank everyone for getting involved and providing their feedback as we look to shape the final plan this spring.”
He added: “At the outset of the consultation we were clear we wanted to engage with as many people as possible across the region on this transformative plan for green and healthy local transport. I’m pleased to see that so many people across the North East have taken the opportunity to share their thoughts with us as we look towards the future up to 2035.
“Everyone has their own needs when it comes to transport as people travel and connect in different ways. It is important that this strategy fully considers and reflects a wide range of needs and modes of transport to drive real change for our region.”
While the estimated cost of the 296 projects included in the initial draft of the plan totals £6.1billion, that figure is expected to grow even higher as more schemes are added over time.
A revised version of the strategy taking into account the thousands of feedback comments is now due to be presented on March 16.
Analysis by IPPR North suggests that in 2019, planned government spending on transport in London was £3,636 per person – seven times more than the £519 per head in the North East.