Transport North is a website established in April 2014, ostensibly to act as a place for communicating about transport stories in Yorkshire & Humber from an environmental perspective, and that of the Y&H Transport Activists Roundtable (Y&HTAR) – which brings together the various environmental transport organisations in the region. It’s under the direction of Anthony Rae (who is the Y&HTAR chair).

But it quite deliberately and necessarily also took on a wider scope: thinking about transport across the whole North of England, and in relation to the north-south imbalance in transport services and infrastructure. And it foreshadowed by just a few months a renewed focus within government on such big issues, heralded by the then Chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse speech of June 2014, followed in March 2015 by the Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North report.

But that document should not be taken as the starting point for the transport elements of the Northern Powerhouse, and it’s instructive indeed to compare its priorities with the different ones of the One North: Proposition for an interconnected North produced by the local authorities on their own nine months earlier (July 2014). For example it too called for a Trans-Pennine Tunnel to be investigated, but its proposal was for a rail – not a road – tunnel!

Since then the transport campaigners across the three northern TARs (North East, North West, and Y&H), and others, have continued to engage with the developing Transport for the North process, including representation on the three strategic road studies undertaken jointly by the DfT and TfN: for a long Trans-Pennine road tunnel, increasing capacity on the A 66/69 corridors, and in the M60 quadrant. An early challenge to the former came in October 2015 with the Trans-Pennine Tunnel Strategic Study: Testing the fundamental feasibility of the project briefing (endorsed by CBT’s Stephen Joseph, who throughout has provided support for our work). That document proved to be prescient, because it was only the environmental transport representatives on the TPT reference group that provided any kind of challenge to the concept of an ultralong tunnel. They were proved to be right when in December 2017 this version of the project was abandoned.

From 2016 onwards activity has increasingly oriented around the emerging Transport for the North strategy, which will be the critical issue – for analysis, challenge and support – throughout 2018.

Anthony Rae