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Improved Transport Connections Could Further Boost Exports


A survey of firms by the region's leading business membership organisation shows that the North East could further increase exports with better transport connections.

TransportA survey of firms by the region's leading business membership organisation shows that the North East could further increase exports with better transport connections.

The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) survey showed that the number of companies exporting goods and services from the region continues to increase, with almost a third of firms exploring overseas markets.

Despite encouraging signs of more firms exporting, the findings highlight barriers preventing companies from selling overseas. Almost a quarter of businesses (24%) say poor transport connections are a barrier to trading internationally.

NECC Director of Policy, Ross Smith, said:

"In the North East in particular, exporting plays a vital role in rebalancing the economy and ensuring a lasting recovery.

"The region boasts excellent airport routes and two hugely important international ports. However, we would urge the government to press ahead with a host of vitally important road infrastructure improvements that would alleviate congestion and boost connectivity.

"Newcastle International Airport is a vital gateway to global markets so links to it must be prioritsed. The upcoming launch of Emirates' 777 link to Dubai is evidence of its success. The Western Bypass is the main transport artery that serves the airport and runs well beyond its capacity. Alleviating the congestion on this route must be urgently prioritised."

Transport connections support supply chains and are essential for moving goods to market. According to the NECC's survey, businesses in the UK believe that the cost and quality of these connections are vital to trade.

In the region, nearly a quarter (24%) of firms think poor transport connections as a barrier to export. But more than quality, businesses are concerned with the cost of transport when exporting. 45% say that the cost of trade connections is also an obstacle.

More than half (57%) of firms that would consider exporting are concerned by the cost of trade connections. It is not just international connections that create problems for exporters. Nearly a quarter of North East businesses (22%) said that domestic transport links are a concern.

"These are concerning findings for the Government as it calls on British companies to double exports by 2020," added Ross.

"The North East boasts a wealth of fantastic companies as well as an excellent airport and two high-performing international ports. While they continue to perform tremendously improvements to their surrounding road and rail network would support their ongoing development.

"For example, Air Passenger Duty (APD) is a clear example of a tax applied only in the UK. That increases costs and puts businesses off the idea of expanding overseas. This tax is more damaging in regions such as the North East where the Government has pledged to generate towards more private sector activity.

"The North East could be contributing so much more to UK Plc. By approving key infrastructure projects across the North East and removing barriers such as APD we could further improve on our already impressive export performance."

The NECC findings are part of a larger survey by the British Chambers of Commerce, which is making a number of recommendations to the government, including:

• A comprehensive aviation strategy for the UK: Alleviate the South East's capacity crunch ensuring regional airports have strong international connections

• Measures to encourage private sector investment in infrastructure: Encourage more private sector investment. That could include the introduction of a national infrastructure bank or fund that co-funds local and national infrastructure projects.

• Accelerate the implementation of road tolling: Providing funds for new capacity at pinch points.