It’s not just London that needs infrastructure investment. Teesside is overdue for big new developments. I’m advocating a Teesside Metro as a major contribution to a better future. Better for people on Teesside, but also better for the whole country. People fuss about the deficit, but they’re missing the point. Britain has a huge gap between what it is exporting and what it is importing. So long as that goes on, there will be a deficit. Fixing the problem means selling more stuff abroad, and making more at home instead of importing. Government cuts don’t help.
Bus and train services on Teesside are disjointed and run down. Yet better public transport links are vital for a number of reasons. Good connections are essential for the health of manufacturing businesses, which contribute to the region and to the whole UK. Teesside has a terrific record as a manufacturing centre. It can contribute to solving the problem of the trade gap. To do that, we need people working, not people unemployed. What can government do to help? Well, one obvious factor is to radically improve local transport facilities.
Teesside is a number of inter-dependent towns, and people need to get around for work and leisure. High quality public transport makes this easier and also better for the environment. Electrified services create the potential for running on renewable energy, and greater use of public transport makes more efficient use of resources.
Health is a major factor in causing people to travel. The argument is being made that big, specialised hospitals are safer and more efficient than smaller local hospitals. But health related travel is already a major load on the transport system, and pushing people to a smaller number of specialist hospitals means more transport. Not just for the patients, but also for their friends and family who want to visit them. Good, cheap public transport is absolutely essential if these health demands are to be met.
Construction of new transport links is also, of course, a creator of employment. Most people will know that the very first railway was built on Teesside. Yet now the area seems to be at the back of the queue! Is a modern transport system for Teesside really unaffordable? It seems that we can afford to spend £15 billion on Crossrail for London. Politicians want to spend £50 billion or more on the HS2 vanity project, which will primarily benefit London. A small fraction of these amounts would transform Teesside.
At present, government can borrow money effectively at zero interest – making now the ideal time to spend on infrastructure projects. Not projects for London, which is already desperately overcrowded, but on areas that need to be rejuvenated and can play a bigger role in the whole nation.
A new Teesside Metro system would start with existing rail infrastructure, but would use modern lightweight vehicles, capable of running quickly and economically. Extension into new lines would increase the coverage and frequent services would make travel far easier. It’s the ideal project for the present time.