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Senior figures in the North of England and rail industry have championed the importance of partnership working as well as transport’s role at the heart of growth and recovery across the North.
At a virtual roundtable event, hosted by West Coast Partnership (WCP), which operates Avanti West Coast services that connect North West England to the capital and Scotland, it was discussed how rail investment should be used to generate improved connectivity and economic growth.
Collaboration and integration of transformative projects were key themes as rail’s role in helping the UK’s recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was also discussed.
Titled Growth and Connectivity in the North West, the event brought together Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester; Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool city Region; Transport for the North’s Strategic Rail Director, David Hoggarth; and Caroline Donaldson, Managing Director of West Coast Partnership Development (WCPD) – the team working with the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd to design and develop high speed services on HS2 infrastructure.
The panel were joined by a virtual audience of 200 leaders and key stakeholders from Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Liverpool and Manchester and the rail industry.
Two key guiding principles for rail investment in the North were identified – place and ambition – thinking differently about how rail investment can build greener and more vibrant communities, unlocking growth and improving air quality.
Chaired by Avanti West Coast’s Executive Director of Customer Experience, Natasha Grice, the event was held together with pro-manchester and Professional Liverpool, demonstrating the WCP’s commitment to partnership working, with collaboration through greater engagement with government, authorities, communities and industry across the UK.
It follows the Department for Transport’s announcement last month of the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council dedicated to speed up vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “We’re at a critical moment now. If we are going to put in place the right rail investment in the North of England to change its fortunes as an economic entity in the 21st Century, two things are required to guide rail investment. A sense of place – building places rather than just projects. A sense of ambition. This is critical to us. We want ambition to be at the heart of it all.”
He continued: “We’ve got to make sure that transport is at the heart of recovery in our cities. It also needs to be linked to the clean air agenda, where we’re bringing through zero emissions vehicles. So, we’re simultaneously rising to the clean air challenge, as well as improving public transport.”
He added: “I’m very interested in what West Coast Partnership is doing and I think it’s the right way for the industry to be moving, away from the silo approach and the fragmented approach.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: “Everything is predicated by the reality that COVID-19 will be with us for some considerable time. It doesn’t mean that we can’t look at strategic issues; we have to put important things like the Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 back on the national agenda for when we come out the other end.”
David Hoggarth, Strategic Rail Director at Transport for the North, said: “Alongside our partners we have developed a strategy for how we can grow our region. HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and wider investment are of course crucial for us, but the current pandemic has reinforced the urgency with which we need to see investment coming forward.”
Speaking at the roundtable event, Caroline Donaldson, Managing Director of West Coast Partnership Development, told the panel and audience: “It has been really exciting to see in the last few years the joining up of stakeholders across the North with a vision for achievement of economic growth and transport.
“We’re very conscious of the need to work with Northern Transport Acceleration Council to make sure that what we are doing is properly integrated, so that we get the combined benefit of HS2, Northern Powerhouse and other schemes.
“We recognise we’re only part of the solution and we are very much looking forward to working with you to achieve those very ambitious, but quite rightly, realistic aims.”
You can watch the webinar by clicking here.
This article first appeared on www.railbusinessdaily.com
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