Chambers of Commerce in call for action on rail investment

Three major Chambers of Commerce from across the North of England have issued a call for clarity and action over the future of rail investment.

Liverpool & Sefton, Greater Manchester and West & North Yorkshire Chambers who between them represent more than 8,700 businesses who employ upwards of 750,000 staff have identified several key areas for action from government and others to help get rail investment in the north back on track.

Following the recent message of support from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for Crossrail2 hard on the heels of announcing significant reductions in the electrification programmes across the country, many businesses in the north of England are concerned and frustrated by what is being seen as a massive U-turn and a backing away from promised investment in the north’s rail infrastructure.

However, the chambers, whose members fully support continued and expanded investment, feel that clarity is needed in what is becoming an increasingly confused area of policy and that support is crucial now to ensure that Crossrail North gets delivered.

Chris Fletcher marketing & campaigns director at GM Chamber said: “The next few years will see agreed investment in infrastructure and rolling stock come through to alleviate the immediate issues on the northern rail system however we then face a serious gap of continued investment until Crossrail North is delivered.

“And it is about this gap which the Secretary of State’s announcement causes most concern. Crossrail North is still on the table – we need this the same way that London needs Crossrail2 – but what happens in the years before this as the extra capacity currently being delivered gets eaten into?

“This is why there has to be a long term programme of regular and significant investment confirmed otherwise we end up in a few years back where we are now.

“Crossrail North is absolutely crucial and it is important that people start to see this as being on a par with Crossrail in London.

“The reasons why it is needed are exactly the same as to why the first Crossrail was built and why Crossrail 2 has been given the go ahead. Promises about it still being delivered in the future are good but many want to have firm dates now to prevent further gaps in delivering what will be a transformational transport system for the whole UK economy.”

Speaking on behalf of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber, Leeds president Gerald Jennings said: “Businesses in our region need to hear commitment to improved east-west rail connectivity if the full benefits of future rail investments, including HS2 are to be captured.

“The ability to move people efficiently across the north increases the size of the available labour market and in turn builds potential for companies to grow their organisations safe in the knowledge that access to talent will not be a significant barrier. Crossrail North, HS2 and regional rail improvements, when complete will put 11 million people within an hour’s commute of Leeds city centre.

“Halving the gap in economic output between the North and the UK average will make a massive contribution to national prosperity, far in excess of the investment needed. It will also send out a strong message that in a post-Brexit world, Government is serious about ensuring no part of the UK is left behind as we seek out new global opportunities.”

Paul Cherpeau at Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce said: “Our members in the Liverpool City Region frequently cite transport infrastructure as their key impediment to economic growth. Efficient mobility of passengers and freight from and between the North West and North East is an intrinsic component of economic growth and rebalancing.”

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