Investment 'will snowball' if region gets its £15bn plan to improve road and rail networks

Investment in the region could see extra boosts if a major transport plan get the go-ahead, says North East CBI boss Dianne Sharp

Dianne Sharp, the regional director for the CBI

A North East business leader says inward investment could “snowball” for the region if a major transport plan gets the go ahead.

Dianne Sharp, CBI North East regional director, said planned spending on transport infrastructure in the North would only increase if an investment plan unveiled last week is given the green light.

And she said a snowball effect could open up a host of other opportunities for the North East.

A report, which brings together Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, has called for a £15bn plan to improve road and rail connections in the region over the next 15 years.

It includes plans for a new 125mph inter-city rail link, faster links and better access to ports and airports.

As reported in the Journal last week, 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.

There would also be improvements to commuter train routes between Tees Valley, Wearside and Tyneside. All this could be delivered well before 2026 when HS2 is currently planned.

How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham
How a train on HS2 could look as it speeds between London and Birmingham
 

A case for HS2 to be extended further northwards to improve connections from Newcastle to Edinburgh is also proposed and there was talk of better links from Newcastle to Northumberland.

Ms Sharp says big investment projects like this bring about big opportunities for business and is keen to get the ball rolling.

“Infrastructure investment on that scale in the North can only be a positive,” she said.

“From the opportunities for companies to participate as suppliers, to the less easily measurable but tangible benefits of the North being more physically joined together, investment tends to create a snowball effect in opening up other opportunities.

“These are great plans and ideas. What we now need to see is the green light and commitment to turn these great plans into real projects and opportunities.”

The report, called One North: a proposition for the Interconnected North, is a direct response to HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins’ original report, HS2 Plus and the Chancellor George Osborne in his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ speech on June 23.

Mr Osborne has pledged his support for it, describing the £15bn plans in the One North report as “affordable” as he welcomed the proposals.

He added: “Of course £15bn is a lot of money - it’s about the size of the Crossrail project in London. It’s a project over a number of years, out to 2030.

“We have got a £100bn capital budget to the end of the decade. I think this kind of proposal is affordable.”

He added: “I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and get it done, so let’s get on with it.”

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