Newcastle Airport’s push for a regular North East flight to America should be the region’s number one transport priority, business leaders have been told.
A detailed study looking at road, rail and international trade links has said a flight to the US is among the most vital of the region’s transport concerns.
It comes as council leaders unite with business chiefs to try and entice one of at least two targeted airlines to Newcastle.
The local authority leaders are hoping they can offer financial support in some form while trying to avoid breaking strict state aid rules,
Their efforts come as think tank IPPR North launches its look at the region’s transport concerns, with a focus on how to link the North East to the rest of world.
Jobs at Nissan and Teesside’s chemical sector are increasingly dependent on trade links, a meeting of business leaders at Sunderland Software City were told.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The North East has huge potential both to drive northern economic prosperity but also national economic growth.
“But to do that we need to enhance the North East’s business connectivity with global markets.
“Newcastle’s International Airport could connect businesses across the North East with new customers and new business collaborators across North America. What we need is a direct flight to from Newcastle to New York.
“Transport for London is a perfect blue print for the North East to take more power and control over the way transport investment in spent. We need to think big, be bold and work towards a North East-wide Oystercard so that someone could take buses and trains from South Shields to Middlesbrough all on the same smart ticket.”
The report shows the strengths of the North East’s transport links for manufacturing, especially the regions ports, but calls for better take up by business of digital and broadband connections.
“It also recommends a single transport authority for the region modelled on the highly successful Transport for London and calls for a North East Oystercard.
It also reveals that 1 in 4 businesses in the North East do not use the internet. It also shows that the region struggles to retain IT and telecommunications university graduates, many of whom move to London and the South East.
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “Our transport infrastructure provides businesses with international gateways to the world.
“This report will undoubtedly help improve our understanding of how businesses interact with these gateways and what policy makers can do to maximise these crucial links to existing and emerging markets.”