‘Com­mut­ing in the North can be a gam­ble in terms of de­lays and dis­rup­tions’

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE - Rashmi Dubé

Much like a com­mu­nity, busi­nesses are in­ter­re­lated. They need to work to­gether and need to have con­nec­tiv­ity that is not just via tech­nol­ogy. The idea of in­fra­struc­ture is there­fore para­mount.

In­fra­struc­ture is the phys­i­cal and or­gan­ised struc­tures that help our busi­nesses, on a day to day ba­sis, to op­er­ate through­out the coun­try. It would be log­i­cal to think that the govern­ment would see in­fra­struc­ture as a pri­or­ity to en­sure that, at the very least, the trans­porta­tion would work ef­fi­ciently.

A lot has been said about this re­cently in terms of the de­lays and is­sues for com­muters. It’s not just the in­di­vid­u­als im­pacted by this poor in­fra­struc­ture, it clearly also has an ef­fect on busi­nesses from de­lays in staff getting to work, to the abil­ity to al­low de­liv­ery of goods. I have re­cently had sev­eral dis­cus­sions with busi­nesses who have felt that, in York­shire, their voices are just not heard.

What I wanted to un­der­stand was the real im­pact on busi­nesses in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity, con­nec­tiv­ity, loss and the im­pact, if any, on the in­di­vid­ual. From a per­sonal per­spec­tive com­mut­ing in the North from re­gion to re­gion can be a gam­ble in terms of de­lays and dis­rup­tions. This im­pacts not only the amount of time out of the of­fice, but also stress and how we plan our day in terms of child­care or other de­pen­dants.

Step­ping back a lit­tle, I ac­cept that de­liv­ery of any form of in­fra­struc­ture across the coun­try has its own unique chal­lenges in terms of what each re­gional area re­quires. The CBI/AE­COM in­fra­struc­ture re­port high­lighted two main themes of con­cern:

1. Link­ing re­gions’. This would al­low for growth and im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween re­gions.

The idea is, by im­prov­ing links be­tween the UK’s largest cities, this will help drive growth and pro­duc­tiv­ity by al­low­ing busi­nesses to ac­cess a larger pool of labour, “a wider range of mar­kets and bet­ter con­nec­tions to sup­ply chains”.

2. ‘Im­prov­ing re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity with in­ter­na­tional mar­kets’. The con­cern here is, what about postBrexit? The re­port iden­ti­fied that we needed to al­low for a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage and this could only be achieved by an “in­te­grated trans­port sys­tem”. The re­port went on fur­ther to say that this would be im­proved through a com­bi­na­tion of avi­a­tion and road devel­op­ments. In par­tic­u­lar, hav­ing lo­cal air­ports and con­nec­tiv­ity for trans­porta­tion of goods.

More lo­cally, the CBI/AE­COM re­port found that:

■ 55 per cent of busi­nesses in York­shire and the Hum­ber (are) dis­sat­is­fied with in­fra­struc­ture in the re­gion. This is higher than the na­tional av­er­age of 46 per cent.

■ 73 per cent of busi­nesses in York­shire and the Hum­ber be­lieve that greater de­vo­lu­tion would im­prove in­fra­struc­ture in the re­gion, which again is higher than the na­tional av­er­age of 47 per cent. We know what is wrong fun­da­men­tally – it is well doc­u­mented and voiced. The in­fra­struc­ture does not work ef­fi­ciently and the North is be­ing ig­nored to the detri­ment of the coun­try as a whole.

What real in­vest­ment is be­ing made? Based on the new data from the In­sti­tute for Pub­lic

Pol­icy Re­search, who re­viewed and con­sid­ered all pub­lic and pub­lic/pri­vate spend­ing, and spend­ing from cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing all com­bi­na­tions of th­ese where pos­si­ble, their fig­ures showed that when we in­clude spend­ing up to 2020/21:

Planned trans­port in­vest­ment in

Lon­don is al­most

2.6 times higher per capita than in the North.

£4,155 spend­ing per capita is planned in Lon­don, com­pared to just £1,600 in the North.

As a whole, planned spend­ing in Lon­don is al­most five times more per capita more than in the North East (£855 per capita) or in York­shire and the Hum­ber (£844 per capita), the low­est of all English re­gions

The North West is set to re­ceive more than the Eng­land re­gional av­er­age, at £2,439 per capita, but this is still far less than Lon­don.

The fig­ures are as­tound­ing, but cou­pled with the cost of this sum­mer’s trans­porta­tion is­sues, the fi­nan­cial im­pact is eye­wa­ter­ing. Look­ing at an anal­y­sis from the North­ern Pow­er­house, in re­la­tion to trans­port (in par­tic­u­lar, rail) is­sues in sum­mer 2018, the cost to busi­nesses in

“the North­ern Pow­er­house [was] more than £37m” the re­port also re­vealed “up to £1.3m [was lost] a day at the height of the dis­rup­tion” and “up to one mil­lion hours of lost time from com­mut­ing, work and leisure travel was lost on North­ern Rail trains alone”.

We also need to con­sider: what is the real im­pact?

The true im­pact is far more reach­ing than just con­nec­tiv­ity and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

By im­prov­ing this as­pect of the in­fra­struc­ture you are also al­low­ing a greater chance for the growth of the econ­omy which then has a more per­sonal im­pact on in­di­vid­u­als and their com­mu­ni­ties in ways that can­not be quan­ti­fied, such as more fam­ily time, bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion for child­care, and less stress upon the in­di­vid­ual.

PIC­TURE: SI­MON HULME

OFF THE RAILS:Trans­port is­sues over the sum­mer cost busi­nesses in the North­ern Pow­er­house more than £37m, it is claimed.

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