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Air quality is becoming a more important issue


Marianne O'Sullivan's column in yeserday's Journal

The important and ongoing debate over how to best to improve air quality has highlighted transport and how people travel around the North East as a key issue for our region.

Having a more integrated and reliable transport network in the North East across different modes will help to both address some of the issues around air quality whilst also making the area more connected and better placed for investment.

We have been raising awareness of the consultation with our members through events and interviews to ensure the business view is at the heart of this debate.

From our consultation events we heard members concerns. They raised views around the need for support for businesses in the area with grants and business rate relief for SMEs in the retail sector in particular. Flexibility within any scheme was also flagged as being important, to ensure that at times where there is less traffic and pollution there are lower charges.

Another concern that was voiced by our members was around the need for better investment in the North East’s transport network. Public transport did not seem to be viewed as an all-round viable option to travel to work or for meetings. Concerns were raised around the reliability, cost and geographic coverage of public transport in the region.

This links to a broader need to have a better integrated transport system across the North East. There needs to be more frequent local rail connections to increase connectivity between areas such as Tees Valley, Sunderland and Hexham, investment in the East Coast Mainline to help increase capacity for local services will be vital. There also needs to be more resilient road networks in the North East to reduce delays and congestion.

Finally, better integration between different modes of transport such as car, bus, metro and rail are needed. There are huge benefits to be gained by better live journey time information and flexible ticketing options for passengers to allow passengers to easily use different forms of transport.

Creating a more integrated system will enable people to chose different forms of transport based on where they need to travel. This will help to improve air quality with more people having the option to use public transport as well as connecting more people in the North East to job opportunities and will help to attract inward investment to the region.