North-East leaders launch transport plan

Newcastle International Airport.

Plans for future transport investment in the North East and the wider north have been outlined today at an event marking the publication of a 30-year plan to drive economic growth.

Coun Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and thematic lead for transport on the North East Combined Authority, and Andrew Hodgson, chairman of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, who are both members of the Transport for the North Partnership Board, launched the plan at Newcastle International Airport.

Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan is the first of its kind and outlines how connections across the north need to be improved to drive growth and close the economic gap between the region and the rest of England. The public are now being asked to share their thoughts on the proposals through a 13-week consultation.

Aimed at rebalancing the UK’s economy through a sustained 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, the plan could deliver a £100billion boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

While a full list of the improvements which will be needed has not yet been published, emerging priorities for the North East include upgrading strategic highway links to the rest of the north and to Scotland, Northumberland to Newcastle rail connections and improved access to Newcastle International Airport.

Coun Forbes said: “Improving transport infrastructure across the North East and the wider Northern region is a crucial step in achieving a stronger economy and better opportunities for our residents and businesses.

“This draft plan sets out the main investment priorities which would improve road and rail connections, providing more efficient journey times between major northern towns, cities and employment sites, as well as improved cross-Pennine links.

“This investment would not only support business growth, attract new businesses to our region and create jobs, but would also enable people to access a wider range of employment and training opportunities – not just in their local area but also further afield.

“We believe this would transform not just our regional economy, but also the future prosperity of the country as a whole.

“Our task now is to unite as a region in persuading government of the importance of matching our ambitious plans with the resources and powers necessary to make them a reality.”

Transport for the North is working to make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region, increasing access to jobs, supporting businesses and improving the movement of freight and goods across the north and to its ports and airports.

Seven ‘corridors’ of opportunity are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims, one of which is the East Coast to Scotland, which will improve corridor speed and reach along the East Coast mainline and other key lines to provide enhanced connectivity in the North East, Tees Valley and North Yorkshire as well as onward connections into Scotland.

Andrew Hodgson, chairman of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “A strong, well-connected, environmentally friendly and sustainable transport system is crucial if we want our economy to grow and continue to make this region an enjoyable place to live and work.

“This is an excellent opportunity to people to have their say and share their personal experiences of travelling around the North East and beyond. I urge everyone to engage fully with the process as the outcomes will affect us all.”

Friends of the Earth Yorkshire & Humber/North East campaigner, Simon Bowens, said:“This much-needed transport plan must focus on protecting our health and environment, as well as delivering important economic benefits.

“The effects of climate change, such as flooding, is already being seen in towns and cities across the north, while the air in cities such as Leeds is dangerously polluted.

“Action to improve air quality, cut climate-wrecking pollution and protect the north’s natural environment must be at the very heart of this plan.”

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