No let-up in the battle for an improved transport system
HERE IN Sheffield City Region we’ve just finished hosting the Horasis China conference; a meeting of 300 senior representatives from the world of business, finance and academia all gathered to talk about China and its role in the world economy.
What was fascinating from the several days of intense discussion and debate was that the pace of change underway in China is of the same scale as the one that took place in the United Kingdom during the Industrial Revolution. The pace and scale of investment in infrastructure, including rail is eyewatering.
Which brings me closer to home. The debate about transport infrastructure investment, often led from the front by The Yorkshire Post, needs to continue to intensify at the Northern level.
We must be relentless in making the case over and over again until the Government is bored of hearing from us that they have to invest heavily in connecting our cities such as Leeds and Manchester, in connecting better together our own strong urban centres such as Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley and then residents to the major transport interchanges.
Quite simply we must reverse the imbalance in transport infrastructure investment that continually puts a brake on economic growth. It’s shortsighted.
It’s counterproductive. And it’s got to change. The Sheffield City Region LEP, our strong privatepublic partnership will continue to make that case. Each and every day.
Our message to government is very clear; we remain disappointed at the Government’s decision not to electrify the Midland Mainline from Kettering to Sheffield but are hopeful that other line improvements along the way will give us journey times to and from London consistently under two hours from Sheffield.
But, we’re also committed to working with the Government and Transport for the North to get it right. To help make the case where it needs making. And to welcome positive news when it emerges.
Because we’re a city region with rail engineering and a culture of innovation in making at our heart we’re poised to benefit in more ways than one from this new age of rail.
Here in the Sheffield City Region we’re leading the way in rail engineering, production and training.
Doncaster particularly is home to some of the world’s biggest names in rail – Hitachi, Volker, D B Schenker, Wabtec. We host the Intercity Express maintenance depot, and the National College for High Speed Rail, training the highly skilled rail engineers of the future.
The iPort logistics site, just around the corner from the college, is building a dedicated Euro Gauge rail terminal for the massive warehouses there.
So we should be confident that investment in the UK’s rail infrastructure will bring benefits beyond reduced journey times and better connected places – it’ll bring jobs in our engineering and manufacturing supply chains, it’ll bring new contracts and it’ll bring new ideas as we constantly seek to do things more productively.
That’s what our city region is good at. And it’s why we should have so much confidence in our future. But let us also be relentless and unstinting in the pressure we are applying to the Government to make sure they deliver on the investment needed to connect up our great Northern city regions; in making sure the rail franchises that determine which companies get to run the trains are value for money, deliver improvements in journey times, are reliable and continue to invest in our rail stations and that national infrastructure projects like HS2 deliver on time.
Our board has been leading the thinking on the development of what we hope will be an ambitious Transport Strategy that sets out how we will make transport fit for all across the region. In the new year we will seek views from residents, businesses and transport users on what it should look like.
The consultation version demonstrates the region’s ambitions for improved connectivity to the wider North as a core part of the Northern Powerhouse, and sets out priorities for improving the City Region’s transport network through investment, building on our successful SCR Infrastructure Fund.
With the determination to achieve a better East Midlands Mainline service, and our Transport Strategy set to improve travel regionally, our super-connected region will continue its jobs and business growth journey.
ENGINE ROOM: The region is leading the way in rail engineering, production and training thanks to the National College for High Speed Rail.
SIR NIGEL KNOWLES: We must be relentless in making the case over and over again.