The Northern Powerhouse is a proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England by the 2010-15 coalition government and 2015-2017 Conservative government in the United Kingdom, particularly in the "Core Cities" of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle. The proposal is based on the benefits of agglomeration and aims to reposition the British economy away from London and the South East. The spatial footprint of the Northern Powerhouse is defined as the 11 LEP areas of the North of England.
The proposal involves improvement to transport links, investment in science and innovation, and devolution of powers in City Deals. Former MP for Stockton South, James Wharton, was appointed as minister responsible for the proposal in May 2015. A 2018 investigation by The Guardian indicated he rarely left London to visit the northern areas, however.
Under the new government of Theresa May who became Prime Minister in July 2016, it was alleged that the focus on the North was to be downgraded into a nationwide agenda for boosting productivity outside the south-east. However, this was subsequently refuted by Theresa May who pledged to "help the great cities and towns of the North pool their strengths and take on the world".
Transport for the North (TfN) is set to become the first sub-regional transport body in the UK from April 2018. Working with central government and national transport bodies, TfN will develop and deliver strategic transport infrastructure across the North of England.
Proposed transport improvements include Northern Powerhouse Rail (otherwise known as High Speed 3) and the ongoing work of the Northern Hub to remove a railway bottleneck around Manchester and provide faster connections across the North of England.
In June 2015, the government suspended electrification of the Midland mainline from London to Sheffield, and the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds amid spiraling costs and missed targets just weeks after winning the 2015 election.
In December 2015, the Government awarded the two rail franchises in the North of England from April 2016 onwards, the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises. These franchises will come with £1.2 billion of investment in more than 500 brand-new carriages, 2,000 extra services a week, free wi-fi on trains and at stations. The outdated diesel powered Pacer trains will also be removed from the network. The co-management of the franchises will be undertaken by Transport for the North and Government from April 2018, transferring the functions from Rail North.
In August 2016, it was reported that proposals for a road tunnel underneath the Pennines to cut journey times by 30 minutes between Manchester and Sheffield, were being advanced. If completed, it would be the world's longest road tunnel.
In July 2017, Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said that it is unlikely that the railway line between Manchester and Leeds will be fully electrified. He also cast doubt on whether the planned two extra through platforms at Manchester Piccadilly station would be built. It was also announced that the electrification plan of the Midland mainline was to be scrapped and 122 InterCity Express trains ordered would be changed to less efficient bi-mode trains with diesel engines added to run on non-electrified lines.
In January 2016, the new southern entrance to Leeds station opened, allowing commuters travelling south to reduce their journey times from the station, as well as a new concourse and cycle storage.
Science and innovation
In April 2016 the UK Government launched The Great Exhibition of the North, investing "£5 Million towards the exhibition with an additional £15 million into a legacy fund to attract further cultural investment in the Northern Powerhouse".
In March 2017, a delegation of 30 digital and technology leaders from the North of England visited San Francisco, home of tech companies including Facebook, Apple and Uber, on a Northern Powerhouse trade mission. The trip was coordinated by MC2, a Northern Powerhouse partner, and the delegation was led by Professor Adam Beaumont, founder and CEO of telecoms operator aql. The flight marked the first ever direct service from the North to San Francisco and the only such route outside of London in the UK.
The trip resulted in a new partnership between aql and CircleLoop, a smart online phone system provider. Links were also forged with incubation experts, including Rocketspace.
Northern Powerhouse Partnership reports
The first Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) report was released in January 2017. George Osborne and Lord Jim O'Neill launched the inaugural report - which included input from over 200 businesses, civic and academic leaders from across the North - at Salem Chapel, Leeds, headquarters of Northern Powerhouse partner aql. The report outlined a plan to grow the region’s economy by £100bn and create 850,000 jobs.
An elected Mayor of Greater Manchester will assume significant powers in Greater Manchester. The current Mayor of Greater Manchester is Andy Burnham. Additional devolution proposals include the creation of elected mayors for Sheffield and the North-East (Newcastle, Durham, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and Sunderland), with the first elections due for 2017.
In popular culture
In February 2017 Goole band Sandra's Wedding released an album named Northern Powerhouse, inspired by the policies and political implications of the project. It was discussed in the Press and praised by then Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy prior to his resignation from the post in June 2017.
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- Northern Powerhouse – official site