Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – Learnings from UKREIIF

Ben Manojlovic shares his reflections on the UKREiiF conference and what it could mean for the North of England.

Since the cancellation of the second phase of HS2 in October 2023, those of us in the North have been eagerly anticipating what the future holds for businesses, commuters, and residents. The UKReiiF conference in Leeds last week was the first major infrastructure event following the HS2 announcement, bringing together leading figures from both public and private sectors to discuss investment plans for the future. A key theme that emerged from the conference was the role of Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), crucial for driving economic growth, fostering innovation, and achieving net-zero goals for the North with councils leading the charge to promote NPR.

One of the most significant benefits NPR would bring is economic growth. By improving connectivity between key cities like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Newcastle, NPR will make it easier for businesses to operate and expand. This enhanced network is expected to attract substantial investment, creating job opportunities in these cities. For residents, this means not only more employment options but also the potential for higher wages and better career prospects right in their hometowns.

Another immediate benefit close to people’s hearts would see a revolution of daily travel for commuters. The current rail network in the North famously suffers from frequent delays, overcrowding and long travel times. NPR should fix the problem, providing faster, more frequent train services. Imagine cutting your commute time in half, with trains that run on time and have plenty of capacity – sounds too good to be true!

NPR will make small towns and areas more accessible too, encouraging tourism and boosting local economies. Residents will hopefully see a revitalisation of their communities, with new businesses opening, existing business thriving and an overall increase in the standard of living for locals.

The NPR project is undoubtedly a bold vision for the North of England, aiming to create a connected, prosperous, and sustainable future. It represents a commitment to levelling up the region, ensuring that the North can compete on an equal footing with the South.

As a resident of the north, I left UKReiiF feeling a sense of excitement about what this meant for our future. I believe that a truly connected North, featuring world-class electrified rail, will benefit us more in the long term than the now-abandoned HS2 mainline from Birmingham. Listening to keynote speakers passionately discussing the role their councils are playing in this, investment opportunities, and the ambitious proposals of NPR was truly inspiring. The question now is, will we finally see the delivery of this enormous levelling up opportunity? Steve Park from Warrington really captured the mood when talking about the new Warrington Bank Quay Station and the positive impact it will have on Warrington.

From the conversations I had last week with senior stakeholders at the conference, one of the consistent messages coming back to me was the anticipated need for experienced project and programme directors with backgrounds within rail, infrastructure, regeneration, and transport sectors to help organisations deliver on this agenda. We have a fantastic network of candidates in this space, and a proven record of delivering key hires for our clients. If you expect to need any interim or permanent leaders in this space, we would love to hear from you, and similarly if you are a candidate with experience in these sectors, please reach out to discuss potential opportunities.