THE prospect of faster road and rail links to the North-East was welcomed after news of a new independent review of UK transport connections was announced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today launched the review, to be overseen by Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the chair of Network Rail.

It will look at ways of boosting transport infrastructure across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, improving connections, creating new ones, and bringing communities closer together to level up access to jobs and opportunities.

The Prime Minister said: “The United Kingdom is the greatest political partnership the world has ever seen, and we need transport links between our nations that are as strong as our historic bonds.

“Quality transport links are the key to making sure everyone can access education, jobs and housing, helping businesses to grow and thrive and rebalancing opportunity fairly across our country.

“As we build back better from the pandemic, Sir Peter’s review will help make sure we have the right connections to support, sustain and strengthen our communities, to truly level up across the UK.”

Working closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus local authorities across the UK, it will look at road, rail, air and sea links.

Mr Johnson said the study would, “provide independent, honest advice”, on a wide range of options to improve the quality and availability of the nation’s transport links.

It will looking at the potential feasibility and economic case of options for reviewing air links within the UK, exploring the cost, practicality and demand for a new fixed link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and boosting road and rail links to Scotland.

But it will also seek to improve major road links across the country, like the A1.

Responding to the announcement of the review, Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “I have every confidence that Peter Hendy will secure the much-needed improvements to transport links across the UK.

“He has been on the board for Transport for the North since the beginning and was instrumental in transforming infrastructure and bus services when he ran Transport for London.

“Improving connectivity is critical to boosting productivity here in the North and without radical upgrades to the current transport system, we can’t hope to achieve levelling-up.

“First and foremost, we need commitment from the Government that HS2 and NPR will be delivered in full, as well as fully integrated, in order to unlock their full economic potential.

“There’s also a huge opportunity to establish Manchester Airport as the international long-haul gateway to the Northern Powerhouse, so improving access reaching there must be a priority.”

Sir Peter brings extensive experience and knowledge to the role with more than 45 years working in the transport sector, including as chair of Network Rail and successfully running London’s transport network during the Olympics.