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The need for speed: Better freight infrastructure is key to growth in the North West

The need for speed: Better freight infrastructure is key to growth in the North West

Monday 4th September 2017

Mark Rathbone, partner and head of corporate in Liverpool, told BBC Radio Five Live recently that increased investment in freight infrastructure is as important to the North West as high-speed passenger transport. Here’s what he had to say:

Writing for the Financial Times (22nd August), former Chancellor George Osborne called on Theresa May to “reboot” the Northern Powerhouse and give the go ahead to HS3.  

I believe many businesses in the North West would agree. A modernised and expanded rail network is essential if the region’s cities are to truly compete on the world stage.

The completion of projects like HS3 will bring a whole raft of benefits to the region – for passengers, but also for key industries like manufacturing and retail.

The faster movement of people has obvious advantages. It will make commuting easier and more consistent and will give our urban centres access to a wider and more unified inter-city talent pool by making it more feasible to travel to them and between them daily.

Reduced travel times will also be hugely beneficial to businesses that are based in more than one place across the North West. With offices in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston, Brabners would certainly feel the benefits of enhanced transport links between these three locations.

Ultimately, a better rail infrastructure means less time spent, and therefore less money lost, on business travel. But getting workers from A to B quickly and reliably is only half the challenge.

The ongoing debate surrounding high speed passenger transport has pushed what I see as an equally important discussion into the background – the need to dramatically increase rail capacity and modal connectivity for freight transport. 

Working with supply chain operators, manufacturers and retailers across the region, we see the frustrations that slow and inconsistent movement of goods can cause for a business and the draw of the South East being consistently enhanced by the continuing investment in its better connected and modernised infrastructure. For me, one of the fundamental reasons why High Speed Rail is so important is that it will free up the existing rail infrastructure for freight.    

The impact of this would be huge, making it faster and easier to get products from factory to shop floor and from factory to port. This will benefit not just manufacturers and their ability to access both internal and export markets, but the retailers that sell their goods and, in turn, the people and businesses that use those products.

The North West is in a transformative phase with major projects such as Liverpool2 set to reaffirm the economic importance of the region to the UK and on a global level. As more people and businesses are drawn here, a world class transport network will be vital to reaching this potential.