Column by James Ramsbotham as published in the Northern Echo (24 January).
Excellent transport connections are fundamental to business success and one of the key pillars of our Stronger North East campaign for 2018.
This work got off to a flying start with the timely launch of the Transport for the North’s draft Strategic Transport Plan, with civic and business leaders from across the region last week.
I was delighted to be part of the launch and lend the Chamber’s support to this 30-year plan, the first ‘joined-up’ proposal on this scale, which set out in detail the importance of transforming transport routes and means of travelling. The plan is key to us illustrating to the Government, in unequivocal terms, what we need to help us achieve more growth, and narrow the economic gap between the North and South East of the country.
It is estimated the improved transport links could unlock £100 billion and 850,000 additional jobs for the North East and our Northern Powerhouse neighbours.
We have 16 million people in the whole of the North and there is a vast untapped potential which could be released, with a similar level of investment and vision which is being applied to the South.
If the Transport for the North’s proposals become reality we could see a vast area of England transformed. Our roads and railways will become the envy of the rest of Europe rather than the other way round.
Make no mistake, transport improvements do not just impact on journeys. This ambitious proposal will also present the opportunity to drive forward a major improvement in skills development, with the easier access to new opportunities for both work and learning.
In the document Transport for the North has for the first time outlined its emerging vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail, a rapid, reliable and resilient rail network between the North’s six biggest cities and other economic centres.
We are well aware of the need for this investment with Darlington station’s realignment an urgent priority.
There is also the ambition for smart ticketing across our region so that a ticket can stretch across the current, often artificial conurbation-based divides that exist.
Now that the plans have been revealed I urge everyone to look at them and join in the 13 week consultation plan to understand what the proposals mean and offer their comments and/or support. The delivery of these ambitions will not solve all our issues but it would be a good start.