No let-up in the bat­tle for an im­proved trans­port sys­tem

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS -

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.

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