Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham has written to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to express disappointment in the transport announcement last week. Read the full letter below.
Northern Transport Acceleration Council and investment in the East Coast Main Line
We welcome your recent announcement of funding for TransPennine upgrades, but I am writing to express our disappointment that the East Coast Main Line continues to be deprived of the investment it so desperately needs. There is no doubt that rail links across the Pennines require drastic improvements, but if services still connect to the ageing, overstretched East Coast Main Line north of York the benefits will be limited.
We need the Department for Transport to urgently commit to upgrading the East Coast Main Line and to work with the new Council on how this can be quickly achieved. This will show that the Government truly is committed to investing in the North and rebalancing the economy.
The North East has faced historic underinvestment in its transport network. With only one track north and one track south between Northallerton and Berwick the East Coast Main Line faces severe capacity and reliability issues. There simply isn’t enough space for the connections the region needs.With HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail also set to join the East Coast Main Line outside of York we need to ensure that these major projects will reach the North East and bring economic benefits to our communities.
Improvements to the East Coast Main Line can be made quickly as measures involve existing lines. This will not require new legislation or the purchase of land. Network Rail has recently released its route study between Church Fenton and Newcastle highlighting measures such reinstating the Leamside line and freight improvements on the Eaglescliffe and Stillington branch lines. These are needed to make the network ready for freight and passenger demands in the 2030s along with the potential of Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 trains. The National Infrastructure Commission has also highlighted the East Coast Main Line along with the TransPennine route in its interim report around prioritising and sequencing. The evidence is clearly there that the East Coast Main Line needs to be a priority for investment.
Without this much needed investment our region’s potential will continue to be held back by out-dated infrastructure. Both the Chamber and the region’s political leaders have been campaigning for increased capacity on the East Coast Main Line to create improved connectivity which will help to create new jobs and training opportunities for people as well as encouraging sustainable travel.
There is already a united voice from the region and the evidence showcasing the need for investment. The Government now needs to act and commit to investing in the East Coast Main Line and use the new Council to ensure plans are aligned with the TransPennine upgrade and plans around HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.We need the Government to act now to show that it is committed to the levelling up agenda and will support investment in the North East.
We look forward to hearing from you and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues further.