Ahead of Wednesday’s infrastructure event in Leeds three major Chambers of Commerce from across the North of England have issued a call for clarity and action over the future of rail investment.

Liverpool & Sefton, Greater Manchester and West & North Yorkshire Chambers who between them represent over 8700 businesses who employ over 750,000 staff have identified several key areas for action from government and others to help get rail investment in the north back on track.

Following the recent message of support from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for Crossrail 2 hard on the heels of announcing significant reductions in the electrification programmes across the country, many businesses in the north of England are concerned and frustrated by what is being seen as a massive U-turn and a backing away from promised investment in the north’s rail infrastructure.

However the Chambers, whose members fully support continued and expanded investment, feel that clarity is needed in what is becoming an increasingly confused area of policy and that support is crucial now to ensure that Crossrail North gets delivered.

Chris Fletcher marketing & Campaigns Director at GM Chamber said: “The next few years will see agreed investment in infrastructure and rolling stock come through to alleviate the immediate issues on the northern rail system however we then face a serious gap of continued investment until Crossrail North is delivered. And it is about this gap which the Secretary of State’s announcement causes most concern. Crossrail North is still on the table – we need this the same way that London needs Crossrail2 - but what happens in the years before this as the extra capacity currently being delivered gets eaten into? This is why there has to be a long term programme of regular and significant investment confirmed otherwise we end up in a few years back where we are now.”

“Crossrail North is absolutely crucial and it is important that people start to see this as being on a par with Crossrail in London. The reasons why it is needed are exactly the same as to why the first Crossrail was built and why Crossrail 2 has been given the go ahead. Promises about it still being delivered in the future are good but many want to have firm dates now to prevent further gaps in delivering what will be a transformational transport system for the whole UK economy.”

Speaking on behalf of the West & North Yorkshire Chamber, Leeds President Gerald Jennings said, “Businesses in our region need to hear commitment to improved east-west rail connectivity if the full benefits of future rail investments, including HS2 are to be captured. The ability to move people efficiently across the north increases the size of the available labour market and in turn builds potential for companies to grow their organisations safe in the knowledge that access to talent will not be a significant barrier. Crossrail North, HS2 and regional rail improvements, when complete will put 11 million people within an hour’s commute of Leeds City Centre. Halving the gap in economic output between the North and the UK average will make a massive contribution to national prosperity, far in excess of the investment needed. It will also send out a strong message that in a post-Brexit world, Government is serious about ensuring no part of the UK is left behind as we seek out new global opportunities.”

Paul Cherpeau at Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce stated: “Our members in the Liverpool City Region frequently cite transport infrastructure as their key impediment to economic growth. Efficient mobility of passengers and freight from and between the North West and North East is an intrinsic component of economic growth and rebalancing.

Rail infrastructure developments and investment, encompassing existing improvement works and the development of new game-changing schemes such as Crossrail North, will increase the mobility of passengers and freight between the Northern conurbations and their hinterlands, create jobs and result in a positive economic, social and environmental impact for citizens in the North of England with a cascading effect into North Wales and Scotland.

Given the existing strain on our rail infrastructure in the North, which will only be partially alleviated by existing works being undertaken, it is essential that that government reiterate its commitment to ongoing investment in rail infrastructure to ensure the maximisation of economic prospects, greater certainty in longer-term business planning and inward investment strategizing across the collective area of the three Chambers.”

The Chambers of Commerce are committed to working with our strategic partners, including Transport for the North, to ensure the voice of business is heard within this crucial area of policy.

Download as PDF| Report this press release

About Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is the largest Chamber of Commerce in the UK, providing business support to approximately 4,500 members who collectively employ 446,000 people, around one-third of Greater Manchester’s workforce.

Recognised as a leader in its field, Greater Manchester Chamber’s reputation in government circles has grown locally and nationally. At the heart of the area of greatest economic intensity outside London and the South East, the Chamber is the primary body for business support, policy, representation and networking.
The Chamber is an independent, not-for-profit private company and its aim is to support businesses and help create the best climate for the region to prosper. This is achieved by ensuring that those taking decisions on key issues such as transport, taxation and business regulation hear the voice of our members. The representation of our members’ views is central to the work of the policy team at the Chamber; these views are gathered in a range of ways including our local councils, policy committees, sector councils, the main Chamber council, focus groups, meetings with politicians and consultations.

The Chamber also offers a range of networking forums across Greater Manchester, free as part of membership, plus a variety of other events and services designed to benefit specific sectors or individuals and help businesses to grow.