A FEW weeks ago, TransPennine Express (quietly) put forward a proposal that would've seen a swathe of train cancellations across the Tees Valley, just so it could ease congestion in Manchester and the North West!

As soon as I heard, I rallied other northern mayors to block these cack-handed plans that would cut more than 15 daily trains linking vital parts of Tees Valley. It’s a disgrace that TransPennine Express was even considering removing busy, critical rail services at a time when the company should be bending over backwards for travellers.

Someone then reminded me, and we can quickly forget, that just a couple of years ago we wouldn’t have stood up for ourselves, we’d have been walked all over and this proposal would have sailed through. We’d have had to just get on with it like we always did.

But instead, we have kept these services, and in the same meeting, we were given the green light from Transport for the North for a direct rail link from Saltburn and Redcar to Manchester from December 2019.

Many doubted we could achieve this, but I'm pleased the hard work paid off. As well as the benefit to local commuters, it opens up huge tourism opportunities for the region.

Keeping on the rail theme, I am delighted that Hitachi, based at Newton Aycliffe, has been shortlisted for a £500m contract to design, build and maintain new trains for the Tyne & Wear Metro. I have again written to the Transport Secretary highlighting the fact that awarding the contract to the firm would be a monumental vote of confidence in Tees Valley’s workforce, world-class supply chain and the wider Northern Powerhouse.

We have a history steeped in railways and we should be keeping train building in our region so that we can safeguard top quality jobs. These are trains for the people of the North-East and they should be made by people in the North-East.

I was delighted to welcome the Business Secretary Greg Clark back home last week to launch the new £55million Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park – he's a Tees Valley lad, you know. Diggers are now on the site, projects have already been announced with many more on their way – which means jobs, jobs, jobs and good ones too.

This region is ambitious, it’s on the up, and we’re starting to attract some world class acts that previously would have just continued up the A1.

We’ve managed to bring the Great North City Games in 2019 to Stockton for the first time. It means world class athletes will be performing across the town, broadcast live to millions on TV, showcasing our region at its very best.

Our bid to host Rugby League World Cup is going well and auditors last week inspected Mowden Park’s facilities as part of the bidding process. We should find out in a few months the outcome. If we win, it will be huge, but regardless it highlights our ambition to host world class events that previously we wouldn’t have had the confidence to even bid for.

I’m sure you all saw the news that Tees Valley is starting to "Shine" with Take That announcing that they’ll be performing at Middlesbrough FC's stadium next summer. Expected to attract 30,000 people and generate over £2m for the region, this will be the first of many.

It is sure to be a night to "Never Forget".