Joint statement from the Chair of England's Economic Heartland, Cllr Liz Leffman and the Chair of the East West Main Line Partnership, Cllr Steven Broadbent on the NAO report.
Due to the nature of its remit, the NAO report has a focus on the role of government and its agencies. It doesn’t capture the way businesses, universities, communities and local authorities in the region have – and continue to - champion the case for a railway between Oxford and Cambridge over several decades.
We welcome the NAO’s conclusion that ‘improved communication and joint working between central government and local bodies are needed to overcome barriers to progress and achieve the goals of the project over the long term’. This is essential if East West Rail is to successfully balance two key priorities: unlocking locations for sustainable growth while ensuring our existing communities and businesses – who already contribute so much to the UK economy – continue to flourish.
We also agree that any assessment of how trains are powered should take a long-term approach which considers alignment with the government’s decarbonisation plans.
The NAO report serves to highlight the well-known complexities of capturing the wider benefits of transformative schemes such as East West Rail. However, speak to businesses big and small along the line – and the global companies thinking of investing here – and their message is quite simple: East West Rail just makes sense, get it built. If an appraisal process is unable to adequately capture the benefits of a project which links three of the UK’s most dynamic and fast growing cities, in a region world renowned for expertise in science and technology, where there is already-significant levels of housing growth, but where poor east-west connectivity is clearly limiting its economic potential – then perhaps it is the process, rather than the project, that the NAO needs to be investigating.