Regional communications infrastructure requires significant investment

November 5, 2019

The North East, despite the size of its central conurbation, sits with a begging bowl in an effort to get essential investment from Central Government

The North East has an east coast plain that facilitates rail and road north/south communications, with valleys that link with
the west side of the country, two international airports, a thriving Metro system across Tyne and Wear and ports both large and small.

On the face of it this looks to be an infrastructure that should be the envy of many parts of the UK. As a location for business and investment there is much to be said for the North East.

And yet, despite the size of its central conurbation based on Newcastle, its access to central Scotland and the M62 corridor to the south, the region sits with a begging bowl in an effort to get essential investment from Central Government.

Improvements to the A1M have been a piece- meal affair with the most recent investment being six-lanes in part on the Newcastle/Gateshead Western Bypass. It soon returns to a congested dual-carriageway and finally ‘country lane’ status north of Morpeth, a long-distance choke point apart from the short section of dual carriageway at Alnwick until the dual carriageway north of Berwick is reached.

This serves to emphasise the imbalance between the North East and both the central belt of Scotland and the M62 corridor to the south.

In essence, our links with Leeds for example are just reaching an acceptable standard but our links with Edinburgh remain sub-standard yet there is a six-lane motorway connecting Manchester and Glasgow on the west side of the country – and has been for years.

Connectivity is key certainly if the government’s ‘free port’ proposal is to move forward. Welcomed by the British Ports Association (BPA), it says it has developed “ambitious complementary Port Enterprise and Development Zone proposals”.

After all ports “are gateways for 95 per cent of the UK’s international trade” and in the North East we have two major ports – Teesport and Port of Tyne.

The BPA adds: “At the Port of Tyne a site could support advanced manufacturing through a multiple site designation a ‘virtual free port’ which could include local manufacturers such as Nissan.” Developing Consensus concurs with this saying the vital element is seamless access to any major infrastructure facility be it port or airport.

The region has first-class rail access via the East Coast route which is now seeing the introduction of the new Azuma rolling stock into London North Eastern Railway’s (LNER) new fleet. Built by Hitachi’s UK manufacturing team at Newton Aycliffe, the Azuma employs Japanese bullet train technology.

This is a terrific step forward for the East Coast Mainline. What is required is a fully dualled road connection to Scotland, a dualled connection west to the M6 not just for North East business to access markets in the North West but for Scottish businesses to access our regional ports in particular.

Developing Consensus
Author: Gavin Black, Naylors Gavin Black.
Other working group members are Charlie Hoult, Hoults Yard; Chris Dobson, Dobson Marketing; Angus White, Naylors Gavin Black and Mark Thompson, Ryder Architecture.

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