BUSINESS leaders have praised a £1bn transport fund proposed by local authorities in Yorkshire as having the potential to “safeguard the region’s economic future”, as a damning survey revealed major concerns about existing infrastructure.
The money would be raised by five councils in West Yorkshire – Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale – and could be used to improve the current transport network or potentially expand it.
The proposal is currently being considered by Government and it is hoped Westminster will back the efforts locally by contributing £250m towards the pot.
The work of the councils was praised by Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s UK head of infrastructure, building and construction, as the company published the findings of its business instinct survey.
The survey revealed nearly a third of Yorkshire businesses see the region’s transport system as a disadvantage, and fewer than one in 10 would describe it as an asset.
Mr Threlfall said: “In exploring the possibilities of a transport infrastructure fund, West Yorkshire’s local authorities are grasping the nettle in seeking innovative measures to fund the region’s transport needs.
“Taking matters into their own hands in terms of transport links has got to be a sensible course of action given the backdrop of decreasing central government funding for regional transport initiatives, as result of austerity measures.
“But, as the findings of our survey indicate, austerity or not, the transport network in the region is a key business concern and there is a case for further investment in it.
“In joining forces the West Yorkshire authorities are stepping up to the challenge of relieving the frustrations of local businesses and safeguarding the region’s future economic prosperity.”
Documents drawn up for the Association of West Yorkshire Authorities (AWYA) show the level of impact a £1bn fund could have – equating it to 33km of light rail network, a 60km network of high quality bus rapid transit, or 43km of new roads.
The investment could also create 20,000 jobs. About £850m would be contributed locally, with the remainder coming from the Department for Transport’s major scheme funding from 2015.
The Yorkshire Post Give us a Fair Deal campaign is lobbying Westminster to end years of underfunding and invest in the region’s transport system.
The survey elicited several positive findings, notably that quality of life was named as one the region’s best attributes by 47 per cent of those questioned, followed by access to workforce and skills, identified as positive by 35 per cent.
Howard O’Neill, president of Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, said: “The survey is right to say that we have some excellent transport infrastructure, not least in the Humber ports.
“But too often congestion on the local road network and at motorway bottlenecks lets us down.
He added: “We need to keep up the pressure on Government to sort out these issues so we can maintain our competitive position.”
Iain Moffatt, KPMG’s Leeds office senior partner: “It’s vital that Yorkshire is, and is perceived to be, great place to do business.
“So it’s really pleasing that our business instinct survey found business leaders based here are extremely positive about Yorkshire’s many and varied attributes.
“Of the 10 factors we asked them to consider, seven scored positively which is a notable thumbs up for the region as a home for business.”