SECOND-RATE road, rail and air links are stifling North-East business growth, reckons a former Transport Minister who is set to produce a bold new economic blueprint for the region.
Following last week's fact-finding mission to the region Lord Andrew Adonis told The Northern Echo he was optimistic that the review team he heads can help drive jobs and prosperity to this region in way that mirrors Michael Heseltine's efforts to revive Liverpool in the 1980s.
In the spring, the high powered review team which includes former Observer editor Will Hutton, Northumbrian Water boss Heidi Mottram and the Bishop of Durham Justin Welby will put a 15 point growth plan in front of ministers.

Over the next two months, experts from the region's four universities have been asked to work up detailed proposals on how to support transport, growth industries, skills training and access to finance. 

After meeting industry leaders, politicians and academics across the region the Labour Peer has already formed some strong ideas about where the priorities lie.
He was alarmed to hear of bottlenecks in the region's road system that mean it can take 1 and a half hours to get from Middlesbrough to Newcastle Airport at peak times, and that journey times on the East Coast Main Line have slowed over the last 20 years.
"There needs to be a huge improvement in road, rail and air links from the region," said Lord Adonis.

"Poor infrastructure is a major impediment to regional growth. The North-East must overcome its relative isolation from centres of economic significance in the UK and Europe."
He said that Durham Tees Valley Airport has "an important role to play" to connect the area to European markets, but that building new international destinations, such as a transatlantic route, will come through Newcastle Airport.
Having a stronger supply chain to support Nissan and the new Hitachi train building factory in Newton Aycliffe would be key to creating jobs, he believed.
In August, when the review was commissioned by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which oversees Tyne & Wear, County Durham and Northumberland, the Tees Valley LEP was not invited to get involved. Last night, Lord Adonis said he was determined to include the Tees Valley in his review. He has met Sandy Anderson, chair of TVU and he will be inviting comments from Tees Valley companies in the coming weeks to ensure the review takes account of the area's needs. 

"The transition from (regional development agency) One North East to the two LEPs was hugely traumatic, but there is no point looking back," added Lord Adonis.

"What we now need to do is focus on the future.
"I am delighted that TVU are involved in this process. We need to produce a clear set of growth priorities that local political and business leaders will support and take forward."    
He continued: "After meeting companies in the region I am filled will confidence. There are many dynamic sectors.

"The automotive and energy industries are globally competitive. The region has four outstanding universities and an excellent further education sector. It also has highly successful venture capitalists supporting local businesses - the success of which has been disguised by the great tragedy of the collapse of Northern Rock.
"Put all that together and the challenge to me seems clear. The North-East needs to capitalise on its many strengths."   

 

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