Naomi reflects on a huge week for transport

October 6th 2023

England's Economic Heartland's managing director, Naomi Green, reflects on what has been a huge week for transport across the country and what it means for our region:

Infrastructure and connectivity plays a huge part in driving this country’s economic growth and prosperity.

And the Prime Minister’s announcement about the future of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester has far reaching consequences for many people and businesses across the Midlands and the North.

But the decision also has implications for people here in the Heartland.

For many communities and businesses in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire, the impact of HS2, its construction phase but more so its long term impact have been, and continue to be significant, in some cases life changing. We can not let people forget this.

For others, we need to now consider how the Prime Minister’s decision affects the potential for released capacity on existing lines, most notably the West Coast Main Line. We heard just last week at the Strategic Transport Leadership Board about the opportunities that released capacity on the West Coast Main Line could bring – to Milton Keynes, Northampton, Watford and beyond. We need to preserve what we can of those benefits, despite HS2 not being delivered in full.

And there may be options for this region to press for some of the connectivity benefits from the HS2 line to finally be made available to us by making it easier for Heartland residents and businesses to access HS2 services.

But in the PM’s Network North announcement there were also some significant investment commitments made in this region.

The Government’s announcement of its support for capacity improvements at Ely Junction was a major achievement for EEH and partners across the east of England. We been working hard for some time to secure the much needed investment in this rail scheme. Our brochure, Keeping Trade on Track which we launched in Parliament earlier this year set out why Ely Junction is so important not just for the region but for the UK as a whole.

In addition, the announcement gave certainty to partners across the Heartland region that much needed Major Road Network priorities, such as improvements in Aylesbury, along the A10 in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire and schemes in Northamptonshire have the continued support from Government. Not only that, recognising feedback from EEH as well as individual partners, the announcement acknowledged the growing pressure of inflation on deliverability of these schemes and reduced the level of expectation around local contributions towards them. We are seeking more information from the Government about this position.

So, we are delighted. The sub-national transport body, working with partners to press for investment in schemes like Ely Junction, is working. But this region, which can offer so much to the UK economy, needs continued commitment from Government – there are major schemes still needing support and investment, including the Aylesbury link for East West Rail, the HERT and Milton Keynes Rapid Transit Schemes, improved rail connectivity between Swindon, Didcot and Oxford and many more.

Separately, during the Conservative Party Conference, the Chancellor also reaffirmed his commitment to delivering East West Rail between Oxford, Bletchley and Cambridge.

We will continue to press for these investment priorities on your behalf.