Businesses could flee North East without improvements in rail network, warn leaders
But they added small investments could lead to big gains, especially compared to the cash lavished on flagship projects elsewhere in the country.
“We’ve got really clearly defined ambitions, which I think, in the grand scheme of things, are [achievable for] relatively small amounts of money,” said Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council.
“Things like the East Coast Mainline and the Leamside Line, the economic benefits and the increased connectivity.
“Measure those against other schemes approved in other parts of the country – the improvement in the North East could be huge.”
Coin Gannon was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee on June 9, which was held remotely due to social distancing guidelines and broadcast via Youtube.
The panel used the meeting to approve its response to a government review of rail infrastructure in northern England and the Midlands.
Regional leaders have repeated calls for improvements to the East Coast Mainline, which they say are needed to allow it to link to the planned HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) routes linking London with Birmingham and Manchester.
A draft letter to ministers warned businesses may flee the North East if its connections to the rest of the country are not addressed.
It said: “The degree of physical separation that already exists between the North East and the rest of the UK will be exaggerated, all the more so because of the contrasting significant improvements in the ease and speed of travelling between other parts of the North, the Midlands and London by high speed rail.
“Businesses may locate away from the North East in favour of places with better connections, and our communities will not only be unable to share in the economic benefits that HS2/NPR can bring, but the productivity gulf could widen as the benefits felt elsewhere begin to take effect.”