The North East business community has given its backing to a recent report calling for major investment in transport infrastructure in the region.
One North: a proposition for the Interconnected North focuses on Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, introducing a £15bn plan to improve road and rail connections in the region over the next 15 years.
Following suggestions from CBI North East regional director Dianne Sharp that inward investment could “snowball” if it gets the green light, a number of other business leaders and organisations have come forward with support.
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “One North backs up what we have been saying for years – the North East is an unrealised asset and with the correct investment in infrastructure we could be delivering so much more for UK PLC.
“We have the fastest growing GVA in the country, more people in employment than ever before and export performance that is the envy of the rest of the UK.
“This project, which is both ambitious and achievable, could only help us develop our credentials further and boost our overall economic output.
“Interconnecting the North of England with additional infrastructure investment can help turn this part of England back into an industrial powerhouse.”
Ted Salmon, FSB North East regional chairman, likewise backed the report, saying: “Small businesses across the North East are heavily dependent on the transport infrastructure to get their goods to market.
“Increasing the amount of spending on transport infrastructure across the North East is critical for future economic growth.
“There’s no doubt that the North East is largely forgotten or ignored when it comes to transport spending. For example, we receive £223 per head compared to London’s £5426 on publicly funded infrastructure.”
He added that spending £15bn to improve the North’s transport system would help to leverage further investment from businesses of all sizes and allow FSB members in the region to win more contracts.
“There will be opportunities to increase the supply chains, which will include a lot of our members, and result in more jobs being created and more investment at a time when we need it,” he said.
“It is vital that the current and future government’s commit to fulfilling this £15bn promise and allow the North East to continue the economic growth we are now seeing.”
The plan includes proposals for a new 125mph inter-city rail link, faster links and better access to ports and airports.
For the North East, it would mean improvements to rail links between Newcastle and York in advance of HS2 being built, creating the capacity for 140mph trains which would speed up journey times and connections to the wider rail network.
It could also bring improvements to commuter train routes between Tees Valley, Wearside and Tyneside, all of which could be delivered well before 2026 when HS2 is currently planned.
A case for HS2 to be extended further northwards to improve connections from Newcastle to Edinburgh is also proposed, along with better links from Newcastle to Northumberland.
Penny Marshall, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East regional director, said: “It is great to see the North rising to the challenge laid down.
“Together, we can achieve more through better connectivity.
“ICE has long held the position that Government must ensure the future proofing of the locations and designs for HS2 stations to ensure potential expansions can be accommodated.
“We hope that these plans will be given the full and careful consideration they deserve for a stronger north of England.”
The report was intended a direct response to HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins’ original report, HS2 Plus, and George Osborne in his Northern Powerhouse speech on June 23.
The chancellor has already pledged his support for it, describing the £15bn spend as “affordable”.
Graham Robb, chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East, said: “Transport infrastructure is the top priority for members of the Institute of Directors in the North East so we support the exploration of these proposals.
“Due to the level of feeling this issue invokes among members, the North East’s transport infrastructure will be a key discussion point when I join other IoD leaders to meet with David Cameron in November.”