A delegation of North-east business leaders welcomed the positive reaction from Transport Minister Baroness Kramer in London yesterday (Monday) following a discussion on the impact of HS2 on the region.
Nestrans director Derick Murray and research and policy director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) James Bream met with the Liberal Democrat peer to focus on transport issues in the North-east.
Mr Bream said: “We outlined the different geographic and economic opportunities that the North-east has compared with the rest of the UK, to give the Baroness a better understanding of the importance of national rail and air links to the region.
“We reinforced the critical nature of the East Coast Main Line now and in the future. In particular, we discussed that a through-service to Aberdeen was vital for others, to ensure the economic benefits continue flowing from the North-east through access to jobs and supply chain activity.”
Research from AGCC shows that businesses in the North-east regard existing transport links as a significant barrier to growth.
The minister assured the delegation that she would seek commitments from the East Coast Main Line franchise team on the route continuing up as far as the city, as well as consulting over the region’s connectivity with the rest of the rail network in the future.
Mr Bream said: “Rail connectivity is a devolved matter but Baroness Kramer has committed to working with Transport Scotland to identify improvements which will benefit the region.”
On the subject of air links and maintaining Aberdeen’s links with Heathrow, the case for protecting important business routes was outlined and the minister committed to remaining attuned to the risks surrounding any potential loss of landing slots between the North-east and London.
“While the temptation to let market forces dictate routes can be strong, we have to look at the wider picture and fight for the overall economic benefit which will flow from retaining these crucial links,” said Mr Bream.
Baroness Kramer was appointed Minister of State for Transport in October last year and she is leading a study into extending high speed rail services into Scotland.
The UK Government says HS2 will provide Britain’s railways with new capacity, better connectivity and quicker journeys. Linking eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, it claims it will allow more passengers to use trains and more freight operators to use rail rather than road.
The project plans to treble the number of seats on trains into Euston and almost double the number of trains per hour on the West Coast Main Line. It hopes to free up capacity on existing rail lines for more commuter, rural and freight train services, and mean fewer cars and lorries on our roads, cutting congestion and carbon.