The following article was written by Joe Colville. It concentrates on transport infrastructure within Yorkshire. It highlights how current deficiencies might be remedied and the beneficial impacts that this would have on the region as a whole.


When looking at creating growth, infrastructure is always observed as being fundamental. Though it is important to understand and contemplate, that though infrastructure alone does not create growth, having it properly invested in is vital for facilitating the other factors that do. It is the foundations on which an economy is built, and without it the economy cannot grow.


At present, though the Government year on year has announced increases in spending, it is always focused largely in the South. The Government invested eight times as much money per head on infrastructure than in Yorkshire, continued spending differences such as this only serves to accelerate the negligence of the region as the present investment is far too small to make a significant difference. As long as London still maintains the lion’s share of the investment spending per head, this situation will never change, the gap in funding will only grow even greater.


Though it is not to be ignored that the South has its needs for investment too, and indeed the investment in Yorkshire should not come at the expense of withdrawing investment in the South, but this is not a zero sum environment: the Government must allocate vastly more spending on infrastructure projects in Yorkshire, while maintaining existing investment elsewhere.


The lack of proper investment means that Yorkshire cannot grow. Its railways are overcrowded, its motorways are restricted, its roadways are full, and its airports are disconnected. Yorkshire needs to encourage its exporting industries, it is our comparative advantage, but the region will never be attractive enough unless the right steps are made to make it viable for the necessary supply chains to be established.


To fix this, the Government must immediately work with local authorities and business organisations, to completely overhaul its investment strategy in the region with massively increased funding.


The regional rail network must be entirely electrified and modernised, the total refusal of the Government to electrify the lines in Yorkshire is already having impacts on how the planned HS2 trains would reach local stations. In furtherance of this, Northern Rail has proven repeatedly that it cannot operate punctually and efficiently in the region, despite its reassurances repeatedly to the contrary, trains operate delayed and unreliably, a situation not helped by its ancient rolling stock: clear performance targets must be made of Northern Rail with punishments firmly applied for failure. It may also be advantageous to create a Yorkshire Rail franchise separate to Northern, specific to regional needs, funding, and planning of the region. But in any case every train that runs through Yorkshire must be replaced with new modern designs, with increased total passenger capacity and improved acceleration and handling.


The Leeds Bradford, and Doncaster Sheffield Airports must also be connected to their primary cities by means of public transportation, particularly establishing nearby rail links. Airports are concentrations of travel and business, well connected airports draw in investment and wealth, disconnected airports are regional drains and do not attract investment. Neither Leeds-Bradford, nor Doncaster-Sheffield have their own rail station, to connect the airports to the rest of the regional economy, this must be changed: railway lines already run past both of them, additional stations must be created to serve them with express services leading to their primary city centres.


The road network must again be looked at as it was in the plans before the 1980’s scale downs. The existing system has too many bottlenecks that are over capacity and prone to massive traffic issues. The A1 must be fully upgraded to the A1M and widened to three lanes along its length in the region, this would work to resolve capacity issues that are frequently plaguing it. The proposed trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester must be guaranteed to be built, with the southern C route being likely the most advantageous for the city. The A64 must also be upgraded between Leeds and around York, this approach is a significant bottleneck for York and damages attractiveness of investment and growth in the city. Lastly extending the M180 from the M18 westward to J38 of the M1 would both increase lateral traffic options, and reduce traffic strain on the M1-M18 junction and the M62, which experiences traffic instability.


A new ambitious look must also be had at high speed intercity rail, the HS2 plans and HS3 plans are not good enough, there must be a new high speed rail line connecting the main four urban centres of Leeds, Sheffield, York, and Hull: to connect the strategic centres of the region together. The region’s cities are effectively separate, their economies are contained within themselves and the vast majority of economic activities happen within the same city. This is a consequence of the significant lack of plentiful, high capacity, attractive infrastructure connections. This also creates the local economic divisions that prevents regional unity; connect the cities with road, rail and air, and you bind the region together.


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