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Regional transport vision revealed by RDA chairmen

A TRANSPORT infrastructure revolution has been set out by the chairmen of the Regional Development Agencies at the presentation of their 10- year economic strategies to the Government this week.

NCE spoke to six of the eight chairmen of the Government-appointed bodies which were set up in April. Several major projects emerged as priorities. They included a rail freight link from Liverpool to Hull, upgraded rail links between Sheffield and Leeds and bigger regional airports for more international flights.

Priority projects are included in Regional Transport Strategies, which are under development with local authorities and chambers of commerce. Funding partners for the projects are expected to be found early in the New Year and lobbying for the schemes will then begin.

North West chairman Lord Thomas of Macclesfield told NCE that he would be pushing for an improved freight link between Ireland, Liverpool Docks and Manchester through to Hull. The project would involve laying 32km of new track and the refurbishment of Victorian tunnels.

East of England chairman Vincent Watts said he would compare the region's infrastructure with the top 20 economic regions in Europe and use the findings as an argument for increased government transport funding.

He added: 'Rail links in the East of England are good in UK terms but do not compete well with other European regions... We want to justify our infrastructure concerns with this exercise.'

North East chairman John Bridge said he would bring together port owners to assess how the region's ports could be developed. He added: 'A lot of port operators in the region own adjoining land. We will be talking to them about developing it.'

Yorkshire and Humberside chairman Graham Hall said he had set up a meeting with Great North Eastern Railways to discuss increased investment in rail links between Sheffield and Leeds.

All chairmen canvassed by NCE said airports in their region needed to be developed to attract businesses and cut congestion in London. Projects included developing a disused RAF airfield near Doncaster, upgrading Stansted to a transatlantic airport and developing East Midlands Airport at Castle Donnington.

A board member from each of the RDAs will be seconded to steering committees of local authorities Local Transport Plans for 2000.

But North West's Lord Thomas said: 'Local Transport Plans are for local authorities. It will be more a case of how relevant LTPs are to our Regional Transport Strategies so we can marry the two.'

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