Osborne’s £34m boost for transport and universities

GEORGE Osborne will announce £34m for North West rail and road projects today, along with an enterprise zone for Liverpool’s universities which will focus on sensor technologies.

The Chancellor will speak at an undisclosed location as part of Liverpool’s International Festival for Business.

Liverpool University and John Moores are to receive £5m towards a £15m facility for hi-tech companies specialising in sensor technologies. The other university enterprise zones are in Bradford, Nottingham and Bristol.

Dubbed Sensor City it will help inventions go from the lab to the factory floor, and act as a shop window for foreign investment into the city’s hi-tech start-ups. University enterprise zones offer specialist business space rather than the discounted business rates available in other zones.

The transport package is being presented as part of the Atlantic Gateway project, an initiative which is seeking to create 250,000 jobs in a ribbon of development between Manchester and Liverpool by 2030.

The funding includes:

• A £10.4m upgrade to the Halton Curve rail line to improve connectivity between Liverpool, Cheshire, Warrington and North Wales.
• £5.6m to improve access and road safety around Knowsley Industrial Park.
• £4m of improvements to A5300 Knowsley Expressway to maximise the benefits of the New Mersey crossing and access to Liverpool Airport.  
• A £14.4m upgrade of the car parking and public transport connections on the Newton-le-Willows rail interchange link to Parkside.

The Chancellor said: “Today I take the next step to build a Northern Powerhouse. I said we would back key infrastructure and science. Today I do that with £35m in transport upgrades for the Atlantic Gateway and a new university enterprise zone in Liverpool”.
Provost professor Stephen Holloway, who led the bid from the University of Liverpool, said: “Creating a new space where ideas from our sensor research laboratories can be transformed into new start-ups is a very exciting prospect for both Universities and provides great opportunities for our students and staff.”

Robert Hough, chair of the Liverpool City Region local enterprise partnership, said: “We have always stressed the economic potential of the city region acting as a freight and logistics hub for Atlantic Gateway and the wider North and are therefore encouraged that this package recognises the importance these specific schemes to support that development.”

He added: “The Sensor City initiative will provide the necessary platform for the universities to work closely with business, industry and other organisations to share expertise and knowledge in the field of sensors that will drive forward innovation on both a local and global scale and which will in turn create jobs and boost growth.”