On the same day as NE1, with Muckle, hosted a Transport for the North business briefing The Times carried the headline ‘£1bn Roads Revolution Launched’. Whilst the article largely dealt with ring-fencing car tax for road repairs and bypasses what we heard from TfN CEO, David Brown, was of considerably more interest and likely to have significantly greater impact on our region’s economy.
The TfN ‘area’ stretches from the border with Scotland to Cheshire, across to the Humber and everything inbetween. Later this year TfN is set to become the first ‘sub-national’ statutory body for Transport; this will embed it for the long term in the Nation’s political and economic landscape. Their job is ‘to drive transformational economic growth in the North of England by intelligently developing our transport infrastructure’. TfN’s plans, they say, can create 850,000 new jobs and add £97bn to the North’s GVA by 2050.
Well, 2050 is over 30 years away and, like many I suspect, one tends to view such bold pronouncements with a degree of scepticism. And, as I know from many years soldiering, no plan survives contact with the enemy, but then the importance of having a plan in the first is that you can adjust from it, hopefully winning through. The mood music in the room – and there were some 40 senior business leaders present from all sectors – was really very positive. I think they liked what David Brown had to say and what he was proposing does look good; get the priorities right, communicate these effectively and then collaborate to deliver. It makes sense to have one organisation speaking for the North, able to pull together into one cohesive programme plans for road, rail and air investment – and set this into an economic context that can justify spending on grounds of resulting economic growth.
Here in the North East we’re impacted by geography; rivers, hills and mountains have dictated routes and we still use corridors today put in place by the Romans and Victorians. We see this legacy today as we move around the country – that’s why it’s still easier to go North-South than East-West. It’s vital, too, that links within the North also include links out to European and other international markets. This is of particular importance in the North East as we seek to develop opportunities in Northern Europe, with Newcastle the obvious jumping-off point for this. TfN have ambitious plans and made an excellent start laying out their case.
NE1’s role in this is helping draw together the supporting business voices which will make the TfN plan a compelling one for Government. At the meeting we had senior representation including from Virgin Money, Leibherr, Greggs, UK Land Estates, Zerolight and Brewin Dolphin, plus the CBI, Swedish and German Consuls and many others. Whilst NE1’s funding comes directly from Newcastle City Centre businesses our influence stretches more widely; it stands to reason if the region is doing well then people working, living and travelling within it will also be visiting Newcastle. That works for us and our members. So we were very happy to help TfN reach an important and influential cohort and look forward to helping shape their transport infrastructure investment plans as these develop.
TfN’s Position Statement is at: http://www.transportforthenorth.com/wp-content/uploads/TfN-Position-Statement22617.pdf