Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the North West Business Leadership Team (REN 14)


  1.  This memorandum from the North West Business Leadership Team ("NWBLT") is submitted in response to the Transport Sub-Committee's enquiry into rail services in the North of England. NWBLT is a consortium of senior executives from major companies operating in the North West region, working together to help enhance the economic competitiveness of the region and the quality of life of all its citizens.

  2.  NWBLT's principal concern in relation to the rail network in the region is to see early and positive action in relation to the strategic transport priorities already identified in response to the Government's 10 year Transport Plan. Members of the Transport Sub-Committee will no doubt be aware that a formal response to the Government's 10 year Transport Plan was submitted over a year ago by the Northwest Development Agency and the North West Regional Assembly, listing 10 strategic transport priorities for the region. Since that date we have seen very little evidence of progress towards these priorities, nor are we aware of any formal acknowledgement of the region's response.

  3.  In respect of the rail services, NWBLT's two principal concerns relate to the Manchester Hub Rail System and the West Coast Main Line and related issues.

  4.  As was pointed out in the region's response to the 10 year Transport Plan, in an increasingly globalised economy ever more passenger and freight traffic will use the region's international hubs — Manchester Airport, Liverpool Airport, the strategic Mersey Ports and the Port of Heysham. All four hubs are run as commercial operations. To maximise investment in the hubs their owners need a positive development framework, especially in national policy, regional planning guidance and development plans. The hubs also need support infrastructure, some of which should be publicly funded, and the remainder funded in partnership or from private finance. Manchester Airport, a crucial determinant of future economic development in the region, must be relieved of regulatory constraints on international services and on borrowing. Relaxing and removing these constraints will not involve public spending. It could have a huge impact on investment in the North of England, whilst relieving unsustainable development pressures in the South. To support the Airport's committed growth there must be major investment in the Manchester Rail Hub, including the Manchester Airport Western Rail Link.

  5.  The North West region is heavily dependent on the West Coast Main Line for North-South links, which are vital for the region's connections with London and for transit to Europe via the Channel Tunnel. Despite the welcome and substantial investment underway in the West Coast route modernisation, conditions have worsened and forecasts warn of continuing long-term difficulties in relation to both passengers and freight. In our opinion it is essential, in order to avoid extremely serious problems of congestion in the years to come, for an additional freight link from the North West to Europe via the Channel Tunnel. In this regard NWBLT has made a submission earlier this year to the Minister for Transport, John Spellar. We therefore attach considerable importance to the work now being undertaken by the Strategic Rail Authority with Central Railway plc and its consultants in relation to the proposals for a lorries on trains freight railway service linking Liverpool and Manchester to Northern France via the Channel Tunnel.

  6.  NWBLT is extremely concerned that the North West region, which represents approximately 11% of the nation's total GDP, continues to be disadvantaged by very poor transport links, in relation to both road and rail, and seeks an early and clear indication from Government as to the action which will be taken in relation to the above matters.

Geoffrey Piper, DL FCA

Chief Executive, The North West Business Leadership Team

7 June 2002

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