Column by Marianne O'Sullivan as seen in the Journal
Away from the constant debate around Brexit there are major changes ahead in the North’s transport infrastructure. These changes will help to improve connectivity but will also have an impact on the region’s housing and skills base.
A key development has been the release of Transport for the North’s strategic plan. The Chamber has been extensively involved in the launch event and have supported their engagement event in the North East allowing Chamber members to ask questions about the plan. The Chamber continues to support Transport for the North’s plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail and key investments in the North’s road network. This will help the North East with increased links to the region’s Ports and Airports as well as better road and rail access both around the North East and the North as a whole.
These improvements to infrastructure will also help to ensure that areas around stations in the North East become more desirable for key developments helping to encourage economic growth. The investment at a strategic level also needs to act as a catalyst to ensure that local communities are well connected to the major road network and major rail stations through bus, metro or car to ensure that everyone benefits.
A large amount of engineering and construction skills amongst others will be needed with Transport for the North keen to take on apprentices across the North. With other key infrastructure projects such as HS2 there is a real need to build up this skills base in the North East to ensure the region can benefit from these projects. Newcastle college’s rail academy is an example how the North East is training engineers for the future.
Increasing connectivity can change living patterns and can make areas in the North more desirable to live in if it is easy to commute. Homes for the North, a group of housing associations across the North, are currently conducting research looking at how Transport for the North’s plans will impact on housing and how housing can help to encourage economic growth across the North.
The large changes in the North’s transport infrastructure will continue to be crucial for the North East going forwards with the impact of these changes affecting the economy, housing and skills base in the North East. The Chamber will continue to work to ensure that the North East fully benefits from these major programmes.