THE government still doesn’t trust the north to take control of its own affairs. That much is clear from Transport for the North’s plan to overhaul roads and railways.

The body was set up to advise government on transport strategy and enact a 30-year plan to improve northern transport infrastructure.
Unlike Transport for London, it doesn’t have the ability to generate its own income. Page 86 of the 96-page plan admits TfN has limited fiscal powers and most of the funding must come from central Government. So what we’ve got is a body to work with local authorities, the public and businesses, set priorities and twist arms at the Treasury.

Talk of “unlocking 850,000 jobs and boosting the economy by £100bn” is exciting, headline-grabbing, and aimed at galvanising the region behind the scheme, but it's totally hypothetical.

In theory it makes sense for the north to work together on transport schemes but prioritising the competing interests of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle with those of Tees Valley, Durham and North Yorkshire will be one heck of a task.

The standard of most transport links across the north are a disgrace; a product of chronic under-investment and a transport policy that’s been built from south to north. The TfN plan aims to redress the north-south imbalance. It will cost £60bn which equates to £150 per northern citizen a year - about six times less than Londoners get on their transport links.

It’s good that the government now has a costed list of the north’s transport priorities but the key decisions over where the money comes from and how quickly these projects happen still lie with Westminster.

Basically, they are still driving the train, we get a say in where it’s going.