'Once in a generation' transport revolution promised for Lancashire as county scoops biggest payout from new government fund

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Lancashire has been awarded the largest share of a government transport fund established with the money saved by scrapping the northern leg of the HS2 high speed rail line to Manchester.

The county council area has been handed £494m from a £2.5bn pot intended to reduce congestion and improve public transport in smaller cities, towns and rural areas - more than any of the 27 local authorities across the North and Midlands that are in line for the windfall.

However, Lancashire’s total allocation is larger still, with the standalone councils for Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen getting £120.8m and £116.9m, respectively.

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It appears local authorities themselves will be left to decide how best to spend the extra cash that is coming down the track to better connect those places that lie beyond the big city regions - but the government has said it expects MPs and ministers to hold councils to account to ensure “the voices of local people are heard” when potential uses for the money are being considered.

Roads, railways and buses could benefit from the fundRoads, railways and buses could benefit from the fund
Roads, railways and buses could benefit from the fund

Lancashire County Council says it already has some possible projects in mind, but will now be seeking the views of local representatives.

County Cllr Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth at the authority, said: "This massive increase in funding means we have the opportunity to deliver some hugely significant transport improvements on a scale that usually only comes about once in a generation.

"We have a really strong track record in Lancashire of delivering major transport improvements, and only last week we hosted Mark Harper, the Secretary of State for Transport, at County Hall to discuss our ambitions, and which this extra funding means we will now be able to deliver.

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"We already have a clear idea of the projects we think can bring the biggest benefit to our economy, businesses and residents, and we'll now be talking to Lancashire's MPs about what they see as the key priorities for the communities they represent.

"Together we will work to produce a clear and joined-up vision for transforming transport in Lancashire, and I look forward to starting those conversations over the coming weeks as we await guidance on the type of schemes which will be eligible for support with this funding," County Cllr Riggott added.

The money announced on Monday is part of the government’s so-called 'Network North' plan for how it intends to reallocate the total £36bn that will be available following the decision taken last autumn to pull the plug on the HS2 line north of Birmingham.

Lancashire has already been earmarked for some other Network North cash - including extra money for road resurfacing, which saw the county council allocated an extra £244.5m over the next decade, with Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen getting £12.7m and £20.4m, respectively.

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The extra transport funding heading Lancashire’s way will start to arrive in April 2025 - and will be delivered in full over the following seven years.

The government says its Network Nirth cash will give local authorities “long term certainty to invest in transformative and ambitious transport improvements”, which could include:

***building new roads and improving junctions;

***installing or expanding mass transit systems;

***improving roads by filling in potholes and better street lighting for personal safety;

***improving journey times for car and bus users by tackling congestion;

***increasing the number of EV chargepoints;

***refurbishing bus and rail stations;

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***improving streets so they are safer to walk children to school and increasing accessibility for all.

The government says it is committed to reinvesting all of the £19.8 billion saved on from the northern leg of HS2 in the North and all of the £9.6 billion saved on the Midlands leg in the Midlands. Meanwhile, £6.5 billion called back from rethinking the approach to Euston will be spread across every other region in the country - including the South.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Today’s £4.7 billion investment is truly game-changing for the smaller cities, towns, and rural communities across the North and the Midlands and is only possible because this government has a plan to improve local transport and is willing to take tough decisions like reallocating funding from the second phase of HS2.

“This funding boost will make a real difference to millions of people, empowering local authorities to drive economic growth, transform communities, and improve the daily transport connections that people rely on for years to come.”