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Will Integrated Transport hubs Become the Future for the North?

4 min

Following the SPOTLIGHT session exploring the notion of integrated transport hubs in the North of England, Quadrant Transport reflects on what these hubs could bring to the region.

Keen to share the importance of integrated transport hubs in the North, Costain’s Highways Director, Simon Ellison, and Northern Powerhouse Account Director, Ian Richardson joined the SPOTLIGHT event to discuss what they could bring to the region.

Joining the pair from Costain was Phil Riley, Executive Member for Growth & Regeneration from Blackburn and Darwen Council, and Craig Alexander, Travel Integration & Accessibility Manager from Northern Railway.

The perfect environment for an integrated transport hub

Simon Ellison expressed Costain’s commitment to boosting the North through integrated transport hubs.

He stated: “Costain is committed, together with our partners in the North, to creating integrated transport hubs that are designed around community needs. These hubs will transform the customer experience by facilitating inclusive, multimodal journeys and in doing so, support the nation’s decarbonisation and green agenda ambitions.”

Simon highlighted the economic benefits of introducing these hubs into Northern towns and cities as we build back better from the pandemic.

“We’re building a park and ride facility in Preston at the moment and the amount of housing flying up already is great to see. There is a tangible link in terms of every hub we open up, we can immediately see the positive impact on access to jobs, more movement and housing growth,” Simon said, highlighting the potential of integrated transport hubs to boost economic prosperity in the North.

Simon concluded: “In terms of integrated transport hubs, the environment has never been better, the timing has never been better. COVID-19 has provided a massive stimulus for change.”

Overcoming blockers to using public transport

Phil Riley highlighted the importance of overcoming challenges brought along by the pandemic.

“There are big, big challenges,” Phil said. “One of them is that for a year people have been advised not to use public transport. This is a message we have never had before since public transport started. There is a question about what needs to be done to get people over [those concerns about public transport],” he continued.

Recognising the need for a shift in attitude towards public transport, Phil noted that “there’s a fantastic agenda of change” in this region. He is committed to improving passenger services and boosting links between Northern cities which would accelerate economic growth in the region.

Urging train companies to invest in the customer experience, Phil said: “If we want people to use public transport, they need to enjoy doing so. There is an implication and obligation there on the train companies to look into the quality of the journey as well.”

Collaborating for success

Key to the success of these hubs is collaboration and cooperation across the transport modes, explained Ian Richardson. “It’s about moving forward together. From a placemaking perspective, integrated transport hubs are commercial spaces where people come together and business, retail, leisure and even residential developments can thrive.”

In order for these hubs to fit seamlessly into towns and cities, Ian explained: “Such facilities don’t necessarily need to share the same space, as long as they are connected, and the design of the connections is interesting, safe and relevant to the communities that the hubs serve. Much of transport design is a compromise between different (transport) users competing for the same space. This compromise is becoming more challenging with the emergence of new transport modes such as electric scooters, but with this challenge comes the opportunity to make accessing our urban centres appealing to a more diverse range of people. Diversity usually equates to economic vibrance and the new model for town centres could be catalysed by this vibrance.”

Talking specifically about integrated transport hubs, Ian said: “There will be a broad range of different transport solutions coming together in hubs and we’re seeing more and more bringing car parking, rail, bus and active travel together in one place.”

Seamless journeys to improve customer experience

Echoing the points of the speakers, Craig Alexander highlighted how integrated transport hubs would boost customer experience and address concerns over the safety of public transport.

Supporting Phil’s call to address concerns over public transport, Craig said “Integrated transport hubs are the absolute foundation in encouraging more use of public transport.

“Customers consistently tell us they’re looking for seamless journeys, they’re looking for speed and convenience and that’s where transport hubs really come in,” he added.

Highlighting the shift in trend towards a mix-and-match approach to travel, Craig explained that integrated transport hubs will support this shift.

Reinforcing Ian’s drive for collaboration, Craig said: “Collaboration is a really key part, continued collaboration is going to be the foundation of how we’re going to move forward.”

It was clear throughout the whole panel discussion that integrated transport hubs will bring clear benefits to the North and help to boost economic opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic and bring life back to the high street.