North East business leaders call on Government to back ‘transport revolution’

Business leaders in the North East have called on the Government to fund a “transport revolution” in the region to help level up its economy. The North East England Chamber of Commerce has issued its report on the need for better public transport as concerns grow that much hoped-for rail projects in the region could be either cancelled or downgraded by the Government this week. Yesterday The Journal, the Chronicle, four other Northern newspapers and a number of websites issued a joint call for Ministers to ‘Choose the North’ when it issues its long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan.

: go here for more North East business news Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told critics to “wait and see” what it is that plan after reports at the weekend suggested rail improvements in the North would fall far short of what business and political leaders have been calling for. The Chamber’s report, compiled after consultation with businesses and transport operators in the region, sets out the benefits of transport for helping town and city centres recover from the pandemic, boosting tourism and helping people access better jobs.

Chamber policy advisor Marianne O Sullivan said: “A transport revolution will only occur through coherent, sustained investment across local, regional and national infrastructure. We are therefore very concerned by the reports that the eastern leg of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and upgrades on the East Coast Main Line may not happen. “Increasing capacity in the Northern rail network will be crucial to addressing so many challenges that we face as a nation, including the levelling-up agenda, supporting businesses and in our efforts to decarbonise our economy.

We need Government to be ambitious in its ‘build back better’ programme and commit to investing in truly transformational projects for the North. “The Government’s own Decarbonisation of Transport Report highlights capacity on the rail network as key to supporting a significant shift from road to rail. Building rail capacity on the East Coast Main Line needs to be a key part of the integrated rail plan.

“Businesses have been facing huge changes due to the impact of the pandemic on how and where people work. There is now an opportunity to encourage more sustainable travel as businesses look at rail travel, public transport and active travel as part of their return-to-work strategies.” The Chamber report calls for specific measures to improve transport in the region, including investment in the East Coast Main Line, supporting the Tyne and Wear Metro and using more digital technology to make it easier for people to use public transport.

Ms O Sullivan added: “We need Government to give us the right investment to develop innovative ideas on our transport, coupled with everyone playing their part in using public transport more regularly. Little changes can make a huge difference to our region’s sustainability.” Asked about transport improvements, Mr Johnson said: “Obviously we recognise the importance of improving transport links across the North as a way of levelling up the country.

That’s why it is an absolute priority for the Government.

“We urge … for people to wait and see the plan in full, which will deliver improved journey times for people in the North and Midlands.”


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