North is firmly on agenda


THE Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­nesses (FSB) is the largest busi­ness sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion in the UK, with al­most 5,000 mem­bers in Greater Manch­ester.

Re­gional chair­man Simon Ed­mond­son of­fers its lat­est help and ad­vice...

Last week the Depart­ment for Trans­port ran a se­ries of stake­holder events in Manch­ester on a num­ber of key trans­port projects in the north.

As the largest busi­ness sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion in the coun­try, the FSB was in­vited to, and at­tended them all.

One of the meet­ings was par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant here be­ing specif­i­cally on the fu­ture of the M60 as out­lined in the North West Quan­drant Strate­gic Study; an­other on the North­ern Trans-Pen­nine study; and a fi­nal one on the Trans-Pen­nine Tun­nel Strate­gic Study.

Each event was de­signed to kick start a con­ver­sa­tion around each of the stud­ies fol­low­ing com­ple­tion of the Routes Strate­gies and Fea­si­bil­ity Study last year.

Set­ting aside what was ac­tu­ally dis­cussed at each meet­ing, the one re­ally en­cour­ag­ing thing that I took away is that ‘the north’ is now very firmly on the agenda of politi­cians.

I say politi­cians too, be­cause the in­fra­struc­ture plans be­ing pre­pared for the north have broad po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus, mean­ing whichever party wins the Gen­eral Elec­tion, we are go­ing to see ac­tion.

Go­ing back 10 years this kind of spend­ing out­side of the South East would have been un­think­able.

How­ever, it’s quite ev­i­dent that it is now the turn of the north to ben­e­fit for some much needed in­vest­ment.

Our Strate­gic Road Net­work (SRN) has suf­fered from in­suf­fi­cient and in­con­sis­tent fund­ing and is cur­rently un­able to meet the so­cial, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pi­ra­tions we have as a re­gion.

Politi­cians know that to achieve the North­ern Pow­er­house vi­sion we have heard about so much re­cently, this will need to be ad­dressed.

The need for bet­ter road links in the north, along­side con­struc­tion of rail links was first raised by Sir David Hig­gins in his Re­bal­anc­ing Bri­tain re­port look­ing at the po­ten­tial knock-on im­pact of con­struct­ing HS2, and we are now see­ing ac­tual move­ment on push­ing this for­ward.

Plans for a tran­sPen­nine road tun­nel along with an up­grade in east-west road links are also cur­rently be­ing worked up, and I un­der­stand there will be an an­nounce­ment on this in Au­gust.

How­ever, a source at the DfT told me if this project was to get the go-ahead, and it is a big ‘if ’, it’s un­likely you’ll be mak­ing the drive un­til some point in the 2030s at the ear­li­est.

But still, that the scheme is be­ing looked at is great news for busi­ness here in the north.

Simon Ed­mond­son, chair­man of the FSB

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