As momentum builds behind the 'Northern powerhouse' agenda, IPPR North provides a blueprint for an integrated transport system that could transform the North's economic prospects.

The north of England has experienced disproportionately low levels of government investment in its transport infrastructure – low both in relation to London and, more importantly, in comparison with city-regions in continental Europe. These low levels of investment have historically held back economic development opportunities in the North. It is now widely recognised that carefully planned investment could unlock significant untapped potential for economic growth within and between the northern cities, as well as opportunities to address wider social and environmental concerns.

There is a strong case for more devolved decision-making in transport policy in England: evidence from London and Scotland, as well as from overseas, suggests that greater devolution of transport powers can bring economic, social, democratic and environmental benefits. However, the precise nature of that devolution, and the appropriate spatial 'tier' to which powers should be passed, is a matter of some debate.

Since the publication of IPPR North's preliminary ideas for a body called 'Transport for the North' in November 2012, a number of important developments have taken place, yet decision-making structures and powers over transport in England remains over-centralised. In this report we make the case for an enhanced Transport for the North body with the necessary powers to maximise the economic, social and environmental performance of the north of England by ensuring that it has the most effective forms of connectivity within and between its constituent parts, and extending out into national and international networks and markets. It offers a detailed blueprint for how the region can create a more productive and competitive economy, and a transport network that is more accessible, accountable and environmentally sustainable.