Representative body for the Liverpool City Region’s £4.2bn maritime industry, Mersey Maritime, has welcomed the news from the Department for Transport that over £600 million worth of investment in the northern rail network will help drive improvements in the region. The Secretary of State visited Manchester last week to announce the rail network funding and the launch of the ‘Northern Transport Acceleration Council.’
Reacting to news, Chief Executive of Mersey Maritime, Chris Shirling-Rooke, said:
“Securing transport infrastructure investment in the north of England has been a long established goal of Mersey Maritime. As part of a roundtable event we hosted at last year’s London International Shipping Week in the Global Trade Hub, we focused on the imperative of east-west connectivity with a number of our key partners. The message from that seminar was crystal clear. With Liverpool as the key west coast facing port across the Atlantic and a range of east facing ports in places such as the Humber looking towards our European partners and beyond, we must invest in our transport networks now to deliver on the opportunities ahead.
“With Brexit now firmly underway and indeed the third round of UK-UK trade negotiations happening from this week, maximising the opportunities for this part of the country, from east to west, is absolutely essential. That means improvements to passenger rail and the introduction of all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle as a minimum. The benefits of this are clear for all to see, with longer and more frequent trains creating significant amounts of additional capacity. It is vital that these improvements then move on to allowing more freight on the route. The Port of Liverpool is such a significant driver of the local economy and is only set to continue expanding in the years ahead. It cannot be allowed to have its expansion and vision pegged back by poor connectivity and infrastructure. As it currently stands, it is relatively badly connected when it comes to freight capacity, with many challenges on local roads. A really visionary, Integrated Rail Plan, must take this into account and deliver on this priority both for the port itself and the hugely significant range of businesses that rely upon it in the wider supply chain. This is an absolute necessity from our point of view.
“We also welcome the news that a new, Northern Transport Acceleration Council will give key regional leaders a direct line in to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, as Northern Powerhouse Minister. This body will help drive progress across the north and critically, will be supported by the Department for Transport staff based in our northern cities. London can seem a very long way from Liverpool at times. Having staff on the ground who will help influence the direction of travel in this policy area and can see for themselves first hand what might need to be focused on is essential. Regional policy priorities can’t be driven from desks in Whitehall, they need to be in the regions of the UK and in touch properly with the reality on the ground.
“With the impact of coronavirus on the economy being acutely felt, the ‘levelling up’ agenda we hear so much about finally looks like becoming a reality. And our region really is well placed to deliver long term success and growth if it has world-class infrastructure supporting it. Businesses and their employees across the area we represent expect action, progress and ambition from the government on this agenda, with the financial investment this will require. These announcements are a firm step in the right direction and we look forward to seeing the words now become a real and tangible reality across the north of England.”