Transport can tick business recovery and climate-change boxes equally as well
Changes to transport systems across the North are vital to encourage investment, and to meet green targets.
Two panels, facilitated by Northern Powerhouse Partnership director Henri Murison, examined the issues facing the region on the road out of the pandemic.
Karen Smart, Manchester Airport managing director, pointed to the almost £1bn invested in new terminal facilities to give the site the capacity to continue to grow.
She said: “When we made that investment we were taking a long term view.”
She predicted that the airport will return to 2019 passenger and freight levels by around 2024-25 following the pandemic, adding: “It will return. We are confident about that.”
And she said that, as one of the world’s largest economies, with the world’s third largest avaiation market, it is imporant that the country makes a strong recovery, as aviation.
Graeme Ferguson, investment director with AMP Capital which acquired Leeds Bradford Airport said their plans are firmly focused on expansion, with Leeds City Council recently approving plans for a £150m new terminal.
But he said the industry needs a degree of certainty in what the future may look like.
“Were in a critical position where we need to understand what that pathway looks like. Airports are in a perilous position. If we don’t have certainty it’s going to be difficult for us to recover. We need reassurance from UK plc that business will open up.”
Barry White, Transport for the North chief executive, said it is important public transport helps business to recover, as well as cultural and leisure markets: “We have to rebuild the finances of the rail industry,”
He said the industry also needs to rebuild passenger numbers at the right time, which depends on encouraging people to leave their cars at home and switch to the train.
Another point he made is, what is the transport industry’s ambitions for the future to give confidence for business to invest.
He said this is knowing that Northern Powerhouse Rail will be built, adding, a big choice is a line between Leeds and Manchester, including Bradford.
“If that choice is right it is one future generations will thank us for. Getting that bit right will help the rest of the network flow and the benefits will flow right across the North.”
Graeme Ferguson said that reducing reliance on London is criticial, including reducing domestic APD tax He said: “Bradford is such a strong metropolitan region, we need better transport links.
Cllr Susan Hinchliffe, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, picked up on this in the second panel, saying Leeds and Bradford is the biggest economic area outside London.
She said transport also needs a major investment to make us compliant with our green ambitions, echoed by Dame Sarah Storey , active travel commissioner – Sheffield City Region, who said: “It is about transport choice
“There’s no way that in any city you should be able to drive through the middle. It means the place itself is less welcoming to other people like people walking around.
James Collins , head of investor relations at ITM Power, which is heavily involved in hydrogen power technology, gave examples of how they are helping to encourage greener attitudes in transport, through a new hydrogen bus refuelling station in Birmingham about to open, as well as train projects, and road travel.
He said: “We’re targeting long range vehicles in terms of buses and trucks.”
He said if a transport business has all its trucks return to the same place, it will be easier to refuel them there.
Warrick Dent, operations director with train company LNER, said they are looking at using electric rolling stock more than diesel. In the past year the company has reduced its diesel usage by nine million litres.
And he said the company is keen to encourage new ways of travelling: “We’re keen to encourage door to door travel not just station to station. There’s only so much parking you can get.”
This was a point picked up on by Susan Hinchliffe, who said: “Improving transport is a win win. It improves things economically and ticks a box for the climate.
“We need to work on some politicians to make sure they don’t make the car the hero.”
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