Susan Hinchcliffe: Transport is key to our region’s success

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Successful places have good transport links. Transport connects people to jobs, to training and to services.

Working in partnership with councils, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority is investing in transport, from park and ride schemes to new railway stations to cycle routes. We are working in partnership with bus operators to provide more reliable services with better information for passengers.

READ MORE: The Leeds communities set to be bulldozed and the roads closed for HS2 demolition

The success of our new railway stations underlines the latent demand for better transport. Apperley Bridge station opened in 2015 and is already catering for more than 350,000 journeys a year.

It is the same story for our park and ride schemes.

The Elland Road park and ride, opened in 2014 and subsequently expanded, has welcomed more than 600,000 cars helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality while giving users a comfortable and reliable journey. Alongside that local investment, we have also made the case for major projects which will help improve our connections to the rest of the country and in particular the need for HS2, a high speed rail line connecting West Yorkshire to Birmingham and London, and Northern Powerhouse Rail, a project which will cut rail journey times across the North including through a new east-west rail line between Manchester, Bradford, Leeds and York.

In recent weeks, we have seen suggestions in parts of the media that the Government’s commitment to HS2 might be wavering, or that the North of England might effectively face a choice between whether the country invests in HS2 or Northern Powerhouse Rail.

It is more important than ever that the region and the north of England as a whole speak with a united voice on these matters. Crucially, we must avoid falling into the trap of accepting there is a choice to be made over whether HS2 or Northern Powerhouse Rail go ahead. There is no choice to be made.

After decades of underinvestment and to make sure that all our communities have access to 21st Century transport connections, West Yorkshire, and the north of England as a whole, need both. Deciding not to go ahead with one or the other would be akin to having the M62 without the M1.And our need for investment extends beyond these major pieces of new infrastructure.

continue to make the case for the full electrification of the trans-Pennine route connecting West Yorkshire to the north-west and we need work on the East Coast Main Line to renew systems and increase capacity making it more reliable and able to serve more passengers.

The transport network is an interconnected machine and only be ensuring all parts are working properly can we ensure our region’s full potential is met.My colleagues Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, and Coun Kim Groves, Chair of the Combined Authority’s Transport Committee and I have written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to underline our continued support for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.Our recent success in persuading Channel 4 to open their new headquarters here underlines the economic vitality of our region but we could do much more, bring more opportunities to more people, rebalancing the UK’s economy away from its dependence on the South East. We can do this with the right support from the Government and by giving us more powers to make decisions for ourselves.

Transport improvements are one of the keys to realising this vision.

We will continue to make the case strongly for these investments to be delivered and in a way that ensures the maximum possible benefits for all our communities.

Coun Susan Hinchliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council.