We learnt this week of a new philosophy Boris Johnson is supposedly championing “Boosterism”. This means taking action to rapidly stimulate economic activity which people will feel very quickly and not just do it tomorrow, do it yesterday.
A perfectly understandable desire of a new Prime Minister who has the potential impact of Brexit to manage and with half an eye to a general election.
Well, after years of government promises to the North about accelerating, unlocking, enabling, galvanising, facilitating and greasing economic growth (hands up, this writer is more than guilty of having recycled some of these phrases), “Boosterism” could be the one that sticks.
Why? Because it appears to be about doing that which will positively impact on people and businesses now, not many years away. Large scale infrastructure projects need to progress as well, but those which can stimulate the economy, create new social opportunity and transform forgotten areas should be accelerated.
The PM’s announcements about Northern Powerhouse Rail were welcome indeed.
In a previous life working at the Confederation of British Industry, speaking to business leaders across the North, east to west connectivity came up again and again.
It is a testament to the Power Up the North campaign that the issue has been brought to this new point, along with the likes of Transport for the North and Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
So what sits on Yorkshire’s “Boosterism” list? Our mission as a region is to promote changes of small scale and cost to build which can pack a national punch for post Brexit Britain.
The PM recently stood in front of Stephenson’s Rocket, a piece of rail history.
He should now come and stand at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA), formerly RAF Finningley, a piece of aviation history, and turn his head to the boost of what aviation and rail combined can deliver.
Today, DSA is one of the fastest growing airports in the UK for passenger and cargo, with new long-haul US routes and an space to expand in abundance.
Located in Yorkshire, but close to Lincolnshire and The Humber, it serves the major cities of Sheffield and Hull and towns such as Scunthorpe, Rotherham and Doncaster, to name but a few.
All places crammed full of potential and talent, in some instances pulling well above their weight.
All that is needed is just 4.5 miles of new rail track and a station to provide the East Coast Mainline with an airport and perhaps a freeport. The private sector has played its part with £300m of investment to provide a first class and award winning airport.
At one swoop you have rail, road and air infrastructure at the heart of a new economic and residential hub stimulating the economy well beyond the airport. Major new passenger and cargo capacity outside of London would be easily accessible from across the east side of the country. Fully realised, adding £3.2bn per year to the Yorkshire economy. While details of the Prime Minister’s “freeports” policy are yet to emerge and tend to be more for traditional sea ports such as our region’s flagship port at Immingham, DSA could become a “free airport”.
With the right model of trade, enterprise and export incentives suitable for an airport, new investment can be stimulated across the country. The rail link would reduce the many journeys currently being made from our region to other airports, saving emissions and pressure on the transport network – the figures of 18,500 people per day to the North West and 13,500 per day to airports in the South East are not sustainable.
The new track and station could be open within five years.
It is simple in land use, engineering and economic case. For every £1 invested, £22 will be generated.
Crucially, way ahead of opening, construction activity, new housing, airline investment and commercial development would begin.
It already has support, with the Department for Transport Minister Baroness Vere on a recent visit to DSA saying of the need for an ECML station, “It’s absolutely critical” and of DSA itself: “This is an absolute jewel in the crown of regional airports.”
Locally, the recently published Sheffield City Region’s Integrated Rail Plan by Mayor Dan Jarvis MP outlined the City Region’s strong commitment.
It is also backed unanimously by businesses and the public.
Whatever you think about the name “Boosterism”, its principles of making an impact as soon as possible are highly commendable.
Putting deliverable projects like these at the top of the PM’s in-tray should be our top priority.
Bring on Boris’s Boosterism!
John Huddleston is Communications and Corporate Affairs Manager at Doncaster Sheffield Airport