The North rejects hefty rail schemes And calls for better local transport infrastructure and internet connectivity

    building consultants say HS2 and HS3 is not the answer to boosting the North’s
    transport infrastructure.

    Sharing their
    ‘wishlist’ for the upcoming autumn budget, three directors from Trident
    Building Consultancy’s Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds offices, say where
    investment should be made to better connect the North.

    Keith Richards,
    director in Trident’s Leeds office, said: “While a faster line between Leeds
    and Manchester would be beneficial, this line already exists. I believe a
    better use of HS3’s £39bn cost would be links from York to Sheffield and from
    Birmingham to Newcastle – perhaps complementing existing lines to form a
    ‘northern crucifix’.”

    Danny McEvoy,
    associate director in Trident’s Liverpool office, feels HS2 is of little
    benefit as it reduces the journey time from Manchester to London by only 15
    minutes. Instead, a rail link between Scotland and Manchester would be of much
    greater value as the journey currently takes over four hours – no quicker than
    making the journey by road.

    In August,
    after the government pledged to invest more in the region, political leaders in
    the north of England demanded a ‘Northern Budget’, including £7bn for transport
    infrastructure. But Keith Richards urges that the investment addresses the
    needs of northern towns above the needs of the northern cities:

    “The old
    industrial bases – Darlington, Doncaster, Wakefield, Wigan, Bolton, Barnsley,
    Rotherham and others – still house a large proportion of the population of the
    north, and yet they could be left out as a result of HS3. In fact, they may
    suffer as a result of investment into rival conurbations. These are the towns
    that have had their heart ripped out in the last 40 years but there’s not
    enough investment to get them back on their feet. Relative to these towns,
    Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield are prosperous.”

    Keith also
    recognises the need for better public transport: “Some city centres desperately
    need better transport systems. For example, Leeds needs a tram or a better bus
    system to enable people to get to their place of work. This is also true of new
    developments outside Leeds.  Knaresborough has grown by approximately
    5,000 new homes in five years and the vast majority of new residents commute to
    Harrogate, York and Leeds, mostly driving.  The towns to the north and
    west of Leeds need better, more localised, rail links.”

    Danny McEvoy
    adds: “In Liverpool there’s lots of work going on but not a lot of
    collaboration between the public transport providers.” 

    goes beyond transport

    Furthermore, to
    attract large companies to northern town and cities, high speed fibre optic
    broadband is required. 

    Keith Richards
    explains: “It’s the higher end commerce that has helped Leeds.  Sky
    Betting and Gaming, Channel 4, the new Government Hub and the legal and
    financial sectors would not have located themselves in Leeds were it not for
    the ability to access broadband. But there is a reliance on BT to provide fibre
    optic broadband.  This should be something that the government is
    investing in.”

    From a
    Liverpool perspective, Danny McEvoy agrees: “There is a real lack of investment
    in broadband.  We’re currently working on an office building on Castle
    Street in Liverpool’s business district where there’s no fibre optic broadband.
    The client is having to put their own line in at an astronomical cost. For the
    majority of new office builds, it’s included as part of the development, but
    refurbs aren’t getting the upgrade and so many office buildings are missing out
    on what is a necessity. In most cases, broadband is better at home than it is
    at work.”

    Pete Ewbank?, senior
    associate director in Trident’s Manchester office, said: “Even in Deansgate in Manchester
    there’s no dedicated line. Having to put in your own line can push costs up
    from £50 a month to £500.”

    Pete also made
    the link between better connectivity and achieving greater
    sustainability in their work: “Better internet connectivity would enable us to
    reduce the number of meetings and removes the need to travel at all in some
    cases. And when we do need a face to face meeting, if we had better transport
    infrastructure, we would opt for public transport to get there.

    Currently the
    North East, the North West, and Yorkshire and Humber receive €380m from the
    European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).
    The regions also receive matched funding from the UK for projects that boost
    the economy or employment opportunities through training. The government has
    said it will replace the ERDF and ESF post-Brexit with a Shared Prosperity Fund
    which is likely to be split equally across England.

    Pete Ewbank
    concluded: “With the absence of this fund, we need the autumn budget to come
    through for the North. We need it to bring the right transport infrastructure,
    and we need connectivity – both digitally and physically. The North is very
    much alive, but it needs government investment and commitment to fulfil its
    true potential.”