Marianne O’Sullivan’s Journal column
The Queens Speech outlined the new agenda for the Government including a new National Infrastructure Strategy to “ensure that the benefits of a prospering economy reach every corner of the UK”.
The Chamber in partnership with Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) have been interviewing businesses about the infrastructure improvements the North East needs as part of a report looking at transport connections and international trade in the North East. Businesses have been clear that there needs to be improved road and air connectivity as well as investment in rail including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and East Coast Mainline improvements.
The National Infrastructure Strategy will set out the Government’s ambitions for transport, energy and digital infrastructure. The Global North East report from the Chamber and WBD has highlighted freight capacity improvements on the East Coast Mainline and Trans Pennine routes as key for helping businesses to access the North East’s ports and transport their goods around the rest of the North. The Government’s Strategy will need to include investment in the region’s rail network to create more capacity both for passengers and for freight.
Heathrow expansion is another key infrastructure project, the Government’s Strategy will need to include how regional airports can benefit from Heathrow expansion with increased connections to Heathrow and connecting flights around the world crucial for businesses that trade internationally.
Reliable road connections are also essential for businesses moving goods and attracting investment to the region. Ongoing improvements to the A1 and the A19 are needed along with a new Tees Crossing and the proposed dualling of the A66 to allow for increased East-West connections.
Road connectivity is also important for visitors travelling in the North East, one of our members Alnwick Gardens have told us that improved connections on the A1 are crucial for attracting visitors to Northumberland especially for those with a limited amount of time in the region. The Government therefore need to ensure that plans for major road improvements are included in their strategy to help the North East’s economy to grow.
Infrastructure plays a key role in allowing businesses to conduct global trade, as well as creating a more desirable place to live, work and invest. If the Government are serious about rebalancing the economy and increasing the UK’s exports they need to listen to the needs of businesses and invest in the North East.