CBI backs an independent business led review of the strategic priorities for making the South West “Greater Connected”

Sent on behalf of Jim French CBE and the five South West Local Enterprise Partnerships

The report released today outlines the opportunity for local and national government and business leaders to work together to significantly accelerate economic growth by improving road, rail and broadband infrastructure.

Chair and co-author of the Greater Connected report, Jim French CBE said:

“Our aim is to secure Government investment in the three essential infrastructure requirements of the region: road, rail and broadband, to enable the South West to rise to the challenge and make its full potential contribution to the economic prosperity of UK plc.

“A key objective of this report was to bring together into one document the key strategic priorities of the five Local Enterprise Partnerships whose responsibility covers the South West region and through the endorsement of all five LEPs it is presented as a united partnership with common strategic goals.

“It was also a key objective to produce this report and circulate it to the relevant government ministers ahead of the Autumn statement in order to ensure that the South West of England and its potential for economic growth is in focus amongst national government leaders when agreeing future investment priorities for the UK.”

Katja Hall, Deputy Director General, CBI said:

“It is extremely encouraging to see the LEPs of the south-west working together across boundaries to set a clear, strategic agenda, and the CBI gives the ambition in this document its full endorsement. The priority upgrades identified, including the long-awaited dualling of the A303 and the rollout of broadband have been long-standing bugbears for our members in the region, and once delivered, will provide a significant boost to investment and resilience. It is important that we see more of this kind of cooperation across the UK, and that once the agenda is agreed, government works closely with the LEPs to deliver.”

The report presents four specific recommendations:

- East/West and North/South trunk roads fit for a 21st century economy through:

  • dualling the whole length of the A303/A358/A30
  • substantial improvements to the A31/A35/A350 corridor and North/South A37 connection into Dorset
  • improved access to the road network through a new M49 junction at Avonmouth, improvements at J25 on the M5 nr Taunton, and better access to our ports and airports.

- A new, holistic approach to rail transport resilience and quality of product that would include western access off the main line direct to Heathrow, and half-hourly services to Penzance.

- The extension of electrification from the Midlands and London into the South West, and the replacement of the current rolling stock with more modern diesel rolling stock, from the Thames Valley in the interim.

- A commitment to fund 100% of premises to have access to broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps, and 50% of at least 100Mbps, plus a commitment to 100% consistent and unbroken mobile connectivity on the regional rail network.

The report outlines that with these projects in place, local businesses and the public sector can enable growth in national and international trade by creating a more attractive inward investment proposition.

Businesses will be better connected to key complementary business clusters to drive knowledge transfer, innovation and develop new products and services.

A more flexible and diverse labour market will be created by bringing people closer to jobs and training, therefore delivering a better quality of life for local people.

Derek Phillips, Vice President & Chair of South West Chambers of Commerce of South West Chambers of Commerce said:

“The storms and bad weather this winter have highlighted the vulnerability of transport links to the South West of England. It is essential that the region has a robust and sustainable rail link together with an adequate alternative road network to support the M5, i.e. a fully dualled A30/A358/A303.”

Steve Hindley, CBE DL and Chairman of Midas Group, CBI Construction Council and Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said:

“The South West peninsula crucially needs step change in its connectivity to unlock its potential for economic prosperity.

“We already have clusters of thriving businesses, top class universities, colleges, schools and a Science Park that compete in a global arena; and with improved access to markets, many other businesses can achieve sustainable growth and create new employment opportunities to bring our GVA up to the national average and beyond.

“Now is not the time for piecemeal or short term solutions; the message is clear: The South West needs a resilient, reliable rail service with increased capacity; improvements to East/West and North South trunk roads, and broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps for 100% or premises and 100Mbps for 50%.

“I urge Government to seize this opportunity to help us bring about the physical and economic regeneration of the South West and deliver the benefits to the local community.”

ENDS

Media enquiries: Helena Davison 07525 806333Helena.davison@heartofswlep.co.uk

Notes to editors:

The independent, business-led report is presented with endorsement from the CBI and five Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in South West England: Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly LEP; Dorset LEP; Heart of the South West LEP; Swindon & Wiltshire LEP; West of England LEP.

It was co-authored by Jim French CBE (LLD), former chairman and CEO of the airline Flybe and former chair of the CBI for the SW region, Professor Robin Mason, Dean of Exeter University Business School and Chris Garcia, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP and former Director of Enterprise and Skills at the South West Regional Development Agency.

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