Dr Dave Smith of Sheffield City Region

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is more important than ever as the North seeks to regrow its economy following the coronavirus pandemic – that was the message at Built Environment Networking’s Sheffield City Region Development Conference.

NPR’s ambitious rail upgrades programme will feature electrifications, new lines and improve capacity and connectivity across the North.

Dave Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Sheffield City Region, described Covid recovery as a three-legged approach – highlighting business support, skills and and investment into transport and infrastructure as the key components for recovery.

Smith said: “We need our public transport to recover – but not just to where we were, we need to enable a new green transport system. Northern Powerhouse Rail represents the ultimate expression of this, envisioning a new transport system for the North, whilst making the existing one greener and more efficient.”

NPR will also improve rail freight transit, which is particularly important for the logistics hubs around South Yorkshire, whilst it’ll also enable stronger economic connection across the region.

The Government has already committed £600mto electrify the existing transpennine mainline, which will begin the process of rail improvements that NPR will build from. The project is to start in earnest in 2024, should it be formally adopted by ministers.

This would allow for it to continue the economic growth that will be stimulated from the initial post-covid investment, powering the Northern economy for potentially decades to come. It will also maximize the benefit of HS2 for the North, which will directly mesh into the NPR project.

NPR is an investment which will show that the government is serious about supporting a long-term recovery in the North, finally start to close the regional infrastructure gap, and make a real difference to people’s lives.