AMBITIOUS plans to boost York's economy by improving the East Coast Main Line will today be unveiled.
City of York Council has joined forces with nearly 40 other councils as part of The Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities (ECMA), to produce a list of improvements that they say could generate £5 billion for the UK's economy, or £9 billion if HS2 is also taken in to account.
The list includes:
- Bringing the HS2 high speed rail link to York, Leeds and the north east earlier than proposed
- Providing eight, long distance, 100mph-passenger trains every hour from London
- Improving the movement of freight, and the quality of rail trips by introducing 100 per cent mobile connectivity on all journeys.
The consortium's manifesto suggests the economies linked by the ECML are worth more than £300 billion a year to the UK, and could generate £5bn of growth if rail connections were improved along the whole route.
Cllr James Alexander, leader of City of York Council and chairman of the consortium, said: “Businesses, politicians and interested parties will see a united call for investment in the East Coast Mainline from the authorities up and down the line. "We want to see the collective economic benefits to be harnessed from improved connectivity.
"We have had very positive conversations with the Department for Transport, but the Treasury is the one we have to convince."
He said the line was essential to economic growth and was very significant for production in Scotland, industry in Tyne and Wear and renewable energy in Peterborough, The manifesto claims: "Services from HS2 will create the conditions along the whole ECML that would generate a higher total Gross Domestic Product of £9bn. Thus, investment in the ECML needs to be made as well as investment in HS2 to allow both to perform to their full economic potential."
The consortium hopes to fund the proposals through Government funding, local enterprise partnerships, council funds, and the private sector, but must first win the backing of potential investors when the plans are launched today in Edinburgh.
If successful, the plans will be wide ranging and boost towns and cities up and down the line, including Edinburgh, Newcastle and Peterborough, the consortium says.
A spokesman for Peterborough City Council added: "We're fully behind the work of the consortium because we know that upgrading the line will bring further benefits to us and the many other communities along the route."
Barry Dodd, chairman of the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Continuing to improve capacity on the East Coast Mainline while improving communications technology is of paramount importance to retaining York's position as the city of choice for London businesses wishing to open a northern office."
Suzanne Burnett, president of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, added: "If HS2 is to provide maximum benefit to the UK economy then it has to be considered in terms of the wider rail network.
"This means looking beyond the current proposed ‘station cities’ and ensuring locations such as York, Harrogate and Scarborough are able to benefit from the additional capacity HS2 will bring through improved regional rail connectivity."
York needs and deserves this, says Sarah Tanburn, City of York Council's interim director of city and environmental services.
The East Coast Mainline is a national artery. York sits at a key point, one-third of the 566 miles from London to Inverness. The city relies on the line for work, trade and travel. For instance, nearly two million of York's tourists come by train each year.
So we need the line to be as good as it can be. York has led in creating an association of councils along the line to lobby for a planned investment programme to unlock the economic potential of all our communities.
We commissioned research to show what could be achieved and found that improving services would unlock £5 billion of benefit. When you add HS2 into the mix, the added value goes up to a staggering £9 billion. York needs and deserves both the high speed links and an upgraded East Coast Mainline.
This week the association, with York in the lead, is launching its manifesto in both Holyrood and Westminster. We will be lobbying for governments to invest not only in HS2 but to adopt the mainline as a major national project.
You can get the manifesto by emailing email@example.com, and register your interest for the technical prospectus when it comes out later in the year. Behind the technical detail, the overall message is simple. York, and the country, needs the trains to be as good as they can be, and we want to unlock the benefits for jobs and businesses that come from strategic investment up and down the east coast.