Mark Casci: Time to talk up transport improvements and show Government what we can do

In Yorkshire we love a good moan when it comes to the act of getting around this most beautiful of counties.
Northern's new rolling stock being built in Zaragoza, SpainNorthern's new rolling stock being built in Zaragoza, Spain
Northern's new rolling stock being built in Zaragoza, Spain

Clogged roads, over-capacity train carriages and late buses all hamper our progress to get around and do our jobs.

And it is for this reason that poor transport links are frequently cited by business leaders as their uppermost area of concern.

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The fact that the length of the Central Line on the London Underground is longer than the distance between Leeds and Manchester and yet is served with far faster services at a fraction of the cost tells you all you need to know about how Whitehall and successive Governments have treated the North when it comes to infrastructure.

The new electric train being built for Northern in Zaragoza, Spain.The new electric train being built for Northern in Zaragoza, Spain.
The new electric train being built for Northern in Zaragoza, Spain.

And, under the current leadership at the Department of Transport, things are worse than ever, as Chris Grayling continues to roll back on commitments to improving our infrastructure and argue with our business leaders about funding disparities.

However, while we may be enamoured with complaining about this state of affairs, we must also look at some of the good news heading our way in the next two years.

Last month I saw the first of the new trains which are coming to Yorkshire to replace Northern’s ancient Pacer trains.

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For those who are interested in the technical side of things, the ‘buses on rails’ will be replaced with 98 electric unit Class 331s and diesel unit Class 195s, along with fully-refurbished carriages.

Traffic congestion, jam, queueTraffic congestion, jam, queue
Traffic congestion, jam, queue

The units are capable of reaching speeds of 100mph and feature free wifi, power sockets and more storage and form part of a new stock alongside fully-refurbished trains.

And they will arrive from December onwards, with the Pacers to disappear completely by January 2020.

When I published this story it was treated, predictably with a great deal of scepticism from some readers who have grown accustomed to being let down by transport bosses, both private and public.

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However, these trains are coming and will mean more frequent and more comfortable services for our long-suffering commuters.

This represents an investment of nearly half a billion pounds and is one of the biggest upgrades to our rail network in a generation.

Rail operator Northern has had its fair share of criticism in recent years for the service it provides its customers but it must, on this upgrade, be given the plaudits it deserves for doing the right thing by Yorkshire.

And it is by no means an isolated example of forthcoming improvements.

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Leeds Bradford Airport, again often the source of criticism for its long queues and location, is also set to have a go at seeing how it can serve passengers better.

Leeds Bradford AirportLeeds Bradford Airport
Leeds Bradford Airport

A new management team under David Laws is in place. They have been frank about the airport’s shortcomings and have made a firm commitment to make it a source of pride for the region. The entire airport will be redesigned in the forthcoming 24 months, with Laws and his team determined to make it a more business-friendly development.

The long-considered proposal to create a rail station for the airport is one that Laws wishes to impose as soon as possible.

In tandem with this Doncaster Sheffield Airport is preparing bold expansion plans for its routes and its infrastructure. One of the newest airports in the country it is investing and making clear its hopes to better connect the region with the world. All of these initiatives need to be backed by us in the business community and given the chance to succeed.

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If we show what a fit-for-purpose transport infrastructure can mean for the North’s economy and the benefit it can bring for the region and UK PLC as a whole, than the likes of Grayling and other Whitehall mandarins might finally come to their senses and realise that giving the North its fair share is a no brainer for the future prosperity of the UK.