Stockton's Infinity Bridge

The case for linking the North East to a High Speed Rail Network

11 July 2011

The Association of North East Councils has submitted a response to the Department for Transport's consultation on High Speed Rail (HSR), strongly supporting the proposed Y-shaped option for a high speed network which would link London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with onward connections to the North East.

Transport and connectivity are fundamentally linked to the economic prosperity of cities and regions. Local authority and business leaders consider that a national high speed rail network would deliver a transformational change to the economic geography of the UK and help bridge the North-South divide.

The ANEC response highlights that improvements to the availability and speed of rail connections with the rest of the UK will benefit the economy of the North East in two ways. Firstly, it will make the existing economy more productive and secondly, it creates the opportunity to support further economic growth, regeneration and rebalancing of the North East economy. Research has estimated that high speed rail could result in a £3.1 billion productivity increase for the North East, through being linked into a high speed  network of the future.

It has the potential to significantly increase the size of the economy of the North by effectively bringing the North East area closer to Scotland, London, Yorkshire and Humber and the West Midlands.

Analysis undertaken by partners on the Eastern arm of the network, consisting of local authority and business representatives from the East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East have found that the high speed route north of Birmingham will serve up to 9.16 million people and 3.72 million jobs. This research demonstrates that the total wider economic benefits of the Eastern arm will be £4.2bn (comprising productivity benefits of £2.6bn).

ANEC's response also highlights the significant growth in rail demand over the past decade across the UK and in the North East. Passenger numbers on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) increased by 36% up to 2007/08, whilst on the local networks, there has been an average increase of 58% in passenger numbers at stations across the Tees Valley since 2000.  With forecast growth in passenger demand on the East Coast Mainline predicted to reach capacity for long distance services in the 2020s, HSR will provide additional capacity which is vital for the North East and the UK economy as a whole.

It is also essential that high speed lines should form part of a coherent strategy for the wider national rail network. The development of a high speed network needs to be considered, not in isolation, but should form one important part of the long term strategy for rail in the UK. Investment in high speed should not come at the expense of conventional rail. Since the planned high speed network is predicated on having a limited number of stopping points, it will be essential for the North East to ensure that improvements in local connectivity are planned and implemented in parallel to, or in advance of, HSR development such that the whole of the North East can share the benefits.  It is also essential that such complementary rail and public transport improvements are considered now and committed within other rail investment programmes within the next two years, to align with the next Spending Review periods and new rail franchises.

Cllr Paul Watson, Chair of the Association of North East Councils, said: "There are compelling economic arguments for the North East to be part of a HSR network and failure to be connected from the start will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on the North East economy.

"A high speed link between the North East and other parts of the UK, including London and Scotland, would be a major factor in boosting our economy here and in closing the north/south divide.  It will support employment growth and regeneration and create a platform for delivering long term and sustainable economic growth and prosperity."

View the ANEC's consultation submission to the Department for Transport

Notes for Editors
The Association of North East Councils is the representative body for local government in the North East. It encompasses the 12 local authorities in the North East, including Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and the Tees Valley, on issues of concern to them and the communities they serve.

It is a cross-party organisation, with all of its Members democratically elected and
accountable politicians.

ANEC's response to the Department for Transport's consultation on High Speed Rail is supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce as well as the Federation of Small Businesses and the Confederation of British Industry in the North East.

For further information please contact Bethan Hughes on 0191 261 3917 or 07957 823 864 (mobile); email