A Proposed trans-Pennine tunnel under the Peak District would help to raise living standards across the North of England by creating an economic bloc of 15 million people, a major business event heard yesterday.
John Cridland, the chairman of Transport for the North, told the Yorkshire Fastest 50 2016 awards that the planned tunnel could provide a major boost for businesses across the North, because it would make it much easier to travel between the major cities.
Mr Cridland also told The Yorkshire Post that the UK needed to ensure its transport links were weather proof, following the floods that brought chaos to parts of Yorkshire and the North of England in late December.
Mr Cridland was the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony, which is organised by the top 100 law firm Ward Hadaway in conjunction with The Yorkshire Post. The awards honour the region’s fastest growing companies, with the aim of highlighting the importance of innovation.
Mr Cridland described how George Osborne’s Budget had included measures to improve transport connections across the North.
He told the 200-strong audience that this included money “to investigate the case for the most ambitious and innovative of the things on my strategic plan.. which is to build the second longest tunnel in Europe under the Peak District to connect Sheffield and Manchester, so we can build an economy of 15 million citizens across the Pennines.”
Mr Cridland said that, if the scheme was feasible, it would mean that the North was pulling together to raise living standards.
He told the lunchtime event at Aspire in Leeds: “It’s an ambitious and exciting challenge.
“I want to see more aspirations and higher living standards for citizens of the North of England - that needs us to celebrate business success and business growth in Yorkshire, and multiply it.”
Speaking after he had presented the awards, Mr Cridland said the UK was seeing weather patterns that are causing new flooding challenges.
He added: “We’ve seen disruption in large parts of Yorkshire - but we’ve got to re-frame how we make sure transport links are weather proof.”
Mr Cridland said the development of the Northern Powerhouse was helping to improve links between major cities and ports in Yorkshire, because key decisions were now being made in the North.
He added: “That’s what happens when you get a Northern Powerhouse - so give it a chance, give it space to deliver. In the end it’s not about a brand name - it’s about people’s living standards and life chances.”
The winner of the overall fastest growing company in Yorkshire title was ESP Systex, from Hull, which provides online payment and ticketing services, including transport smart cards. The companyalso triumphed in the fastest growing large business category.
A full report on the awards ceremony will be contained in a supplement to be published with The Yorkshire Post on Tuesday.