Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Weekend Read: We must work together on transport infrastructure

Here in the North, and especially the North East we really suffer from Council's not proactively working together on cross boundary transport projects. Things are improving with the creation of the Combined Authority [The LA7], and the LEPs are doing a great job, but I still worry a silo mentality amongst our Council's is holding back both our region and the North as a whole.

I have recently called for cross Council support for three key transport projects which affect my own Hexham constituency, but also the Northern corridor of England - namely the dualling of the A69, improvements to the Newcastle to Carlisle railway and the re opening of Gilsland Station.

These three projects are good examples of infrastructure projects that are essential both in terms of connectivity and economic regeneration of the North. At the heart of getting these projects moving is ensuring those with the levers of power are working together: that includes the Local Enterprise Partnerships, DFT, Network Rail and the Councils in the north east and north west. At the moment we are doing well but LEPs and Council's must pull together and help deliver projects which will benefit not just my constituents and the county of Northumberland, but also the cities of Carlise and Newcastle.

Both John Stevenson, the MP for Carlisle, and I have met and made the case to the Secretary of State for Transport on the dualling of the A69 west of Hexham to Carlisle. Our aim is to get this project into the 2016-2021 Funding round of upgrades. I have a further Meeting with the Highways Agency, along with Rory Stewart the MP for Penrith and the Border, and John Stevenson MP for Carlisle, soon to make the case in more detail for this vital upgrade, and discuss the problems.

With the Tyne Valley Line we are continuing our preparation of evidence to the Electrification Task Force, to connect the electrified services of the East Coast and West Coast Mainlines. Again our hope is to get this project into the long term electrification plan, and its timetable, as this will not happen for several years, but without getting into the plan it will simply never happen. I have the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, coming to the North East and seeing the line for herself in January. I have also had a meeting with Electrification Task Force led by Andrew Jones MP last week and I now inviting submissions to that cross party group.

The project to rebuild Gilsland Station is moving forward slowly but surely, and I have had recent discussions with many of the key project leaders to discuss how this can be moved forward. I recently met Network Rail and they are supportive, albeit we have more work to do to ensure the long term viability of the project.

All of these projects which are moving along incrementally are vital in terms of rural economic development, tourism and connectivity. Our northern LEPs & Councils must also be working together to ensure there is single strong and confident voice coming from the North that we are ready to take forward these projects and deliver the transport infrastructure upgrades we need.