Business leaders welcome year of transport successes

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Business leaders have welcomed the positive announcements on transport and other key infrastructure made by Government over the past 12 months, but warned that shortages of skilled workers could yet hold back the drive for growth.

The £250m Leeds trolleybus scheme which was given the green light on Thursday was the latest in a string of investments by Whitehall in the region’s creaking transport infrastructure.

With Government sources now suggesting that the £580m Northern Hub rail package could be next, senior business figures praised what appears to be a renewed focus upon the North after decades of neglect.

Mark Goldstone, director of policy at the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “This region needs investment in key infrastructure, both inter- and intra-city, so we welcome announcements on trans-Pennine electrification, funding for the Northern Hub and longer term commitment to bring high speed rail into the region.

“The scale of the funds being made available is extremely encouraging.”

Mr Goldstone also praised the super-fast broadband funding for Leeds and Bradford, which he said would help new sectors to grow across the two cities.

“The introduction of high speed broadband will have the potential to stimulate our already excellent digital and creative sectors further,” he said.

But he highlighted the “huge disappointment” that saw the Green Investment Bank sited in London and Edinburgh, with Leeds overlooked despite its large financial centre and notable green credentials.

And he warned that access to a skilled workforce is “of great concern” to local businesses and called for a “more flexible solution” towards employment legislation for small businesses.

In East Yorkshire, the chairman of the Humber local enterprise partnership Lord Haskins said there have been “encouraging signs” amidst the general economic gloom, with Siemens agreeing to open a new turbine factory at Hull.

“The Government has been very helpful in terms of the offshore wind developments,” he said. “I do think they are very committed.

“The problem is that so often there is a political wobble – or at least the perception of one.

“They need to make clear where they stand, and give these firms the certainty they need.

“What we must do now is make sure the Humber is in the second wave of City Deals, so we can put a local focus on skills training and make sure we benefit fully from the arrival of this new industry.”