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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Northern England needs a 'Boris' figure

Economic commission says Northern England needs TfL for the North

The North of England needs its own figurehead who, like the Mayor of London, can argue for more local powers to stop the northern economy falling behind, according to the final report of the IPPR North think tank's 18-month-long Northern Economic Futures Commission.

The report shows that Germany has seven cities in the top 20 European cities, Spain has two, the Netherlands has two but the UK has just one: London. The report argues for devolution to 'metro mayors' for the North's major cities and a Northern 'chair' to 'speak with one voice' on behalf of the North.

The report, to be previewed in the capital at tomorrow's London Policy Conference - organised by IPPR and the Centre for London - argues for the creation of a new transport body modelled on Transport for London to take power over the Northern Rail Franchise, major hub stations, rolling stock and smart ticketing.

The report says that eventually, 'Transport for the North' should regulate buses and take over Highways Agency responsibilities, so that major integrated transport projects across car, bus and train travel can be planned and delivered across the North of England. The report also argues for a major decentralisation of transport powers to local authorities and Passenger Transport Executives, including powers over regional franchising, concessionary fares and management of local stations.

The report shows that over the last 10 years, the North of England has contributed a fifth to the UK's economic prosperity, compared with London, which has contributed just over a quarter. The Commission report includes a twelve point plan to boost northern economic prosperity over the next decade.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North, said:

"London's Mayor has been a driving force within the corridors of power in Whitehall to win more local powers for London and to get Londoners' voices heard when it comes to big national transport projects. The North needs a big hitter who can ensure the North 'speaks with one voice' and can bang the table at Westminster on the issues that matter most to the people of the North of England.

"Londoners can see the impact that Transport for London has had every time they use their OysterCard to go from train, to tube, to bus. A new 'Transport for the North' could coordinate big transport infrastructure projects, like a 'Northern crossrail' to cut the journey time from Liverpool to Newcastle in half."

IPPR North analysis shows transport spending is:

  • £2,731 per head in London    
  • £792 per head in the South East       
  • £311 per head in the East Midlands  
  • £269 per head in the West Midlands
  • £201 per head in Yorkshire & Humber
  • £134 per head in the North West
  • £43 per head in the East
  • £19 per head in the South West
  • £5 per head in the North East

Notes to editors:

The full report of IPPR North's Northern Economic Future Commission will be published on Thursday and launched at a conference in Leeds on Friday. For more, see

The report will be previewed in a session at the second annual London Conference, at London's Royal Festival Hall. For more details see:

The Northern Economic Future Commission comprised of the following Commissioners:

  • Geoff Muirhead CBE, Former Chief Executive Officer, Manchester Airports Group (Chair)
  • Ed Cox, Director, IPPR North (Deputy Chair)
  • Bill Adams, Regional Secretary, Yorkshire & Humber TUC
  • John Anderson, Regional Director, BT Yorkshire & Humber
  • Rhiannon Bearne, Group Assistant Director - Policy, The Cyrenians
  • Paul Callaghan, Chairman, Leighton Group
  • Adeeba Malik, Deputy Chief Executive, QED-UK
  • Professor Philip McCann, Chair of Economic Geography, University of Groningen
  • David McKeith, Chairman, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
  • Rodger McMillan, Therapy Area Head, AstraZeneca
  • John Mothersole, Chief Executive, Sheffield City Council
  • Peter Nears, Strategic Planning Director, Peel Holdings
  • Ann Pittard, Large Business Development Lead, Leeds City Region
  • Professor Philip Shapira, Professor of Innovation Management and Policy, Manchester Business School
  • Bill Tompson, Head of Rural and Regional Development, OECD
  • Julia Unwin, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation


Richard Darlington, 07525 481 602,