Responding to today’s launch of the Independent International Connectivity Commission report today, Cllr Keith Wakefield said:
“With the largest city region economy outside London and located at the centre of England’s Northern Powerhouse, in Leeds City Region we are very much aware of how good connectivity, including international links can continue to contribute to our success. Links between the great cities of the North can only enhance all of our economies and boost the opportunities for employment, growth and leisure.
“West Yorkshire Combined Authority is working within the City Region to develop better links to Leeds Bradford Airport, and supporting wider initiatives such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and the electrification of the existing trans-Pennine rail route, which will enhance links to ports and airports.
“Through the LEP, we have extensive programmes of work to help local business into export markets as well as high profile campaigns to generate international trade and investment to the Leeds City Region so any measure that strengthen our global connectivity and position at the heart of ‘Team North’ must be welcomed.”
Made up of business leaders, the independent Commission’s report says that better connected airports and ports in the North of England could release massive potential benefits for trade and business growth. Better road and rail links to and from the region’s ports could also see more freight being shipped directly into and out of the region and better international links from the North could see the number of air passengers travelling to and from the region each year double to 75 million by 2050.
Key economic assets
John Cridland CBE, Chair of Transport for the North and former Director-General of the CBI, who led the Commission said: “It’s clear that the North’s ports and airports are key economic assets for the region, with nearly 40 million passengers flying from the region each year and around a third of all UK freight using Northern ports. Yet we know that the lack of access to and from our ports and airports is holding them back, with congestion on our roads and railways making it difficult for people and goods to reach international gateways.
“These inadequate ground transport links, coupled with not enough direct services to key international destinations, mean that passengers from the North often have to travel from Southern gateways. They also act as a disincentive from both business and leisure travellers to visit the region.
“Unlike in the South, where ports and airports are heavily congested, the North’s international gateways have unused capacity. We believe international connectivity starts on the ground; by properly utilising available resources we can both boost the economy of the North and ease pressure on overloaded ports and airports elsewhere. We need to start promoting the North as a destination of choice, both to do business and to visit.”
There is the capacity in the North’s ports and airports to support transporting many more passengers and freight, the Commission found, but poor ground connections are inhibiting growth. This echoed the Government’s recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper, which stated that areas outside the South East are missing out on trade-related economic activity and tourism because they have less connectivity to global markets than their competitors have.
Among the report’s recommendations for boosting global connections are improvements to road and rail links to airports and ports across the region and increasing the number of international flights to and from the North to increase capacity for both passengers and air freight. Better links to and from the region’s ports could also see more ferry services and an increase in freight being shipped directly into the North.
The Commission suggests reducing the burden of Air Passenger Duty to encourage airlines to offer more flights to and from the region and developing a ‘Team North’ to market the region. The Commission also recommends that 90% of long-haul passengers should be able to fly directly from the North to their international destination by 2050, compared to just 50% at the moment.
Download the Independent International Connectivity Commission report (PDF - opens in new window).