Roads versus railways

John Getty

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Infrastructure and future transport in Britain seems to be receiving a lot of much needed attention in the media at the moment.

It is brilliant news to hear that current proposals for the London to the West Midlands to Scotland high speed rail route will probably take it through the North West. It’s also great to hear the government talking about spending money to improve the rail infrastructure across the rest of the country.

But how many times have you sat in traffic at a motorway junction or roundabout anxiously checking your watch and cursing the vehicles in front for holding you up?

We all know that feeling, and certainly manufacturing-mighty Pendle is a classic case. The M65, brought to a sudden halt at Colne, presumably by budget constraints, now gives way to inadequate roads that have caused massive frustration to all of us over recent years. The jams begin first thing in the morning and continue until well after finishing time in the evening.

It’s a familiar story around the country, and something that the average motorist has come to accept on his way to the shops or taking children to school. But we should remember that manufacturers and businesses in the North West rely on road transport to get vital components to their customers on time.

How many deadlines have been missed because of the blocked flow of vehicles on now unsuitable roads? British Chambers of Commerce now estimate the annual cost to business of congestion as a staggering £23.2billion.

The authorities need to acknowledge that manufacturing and commercial business in the North West is our lifeblood, which has too often been ignored.

We’re told a nationwide multi-million pound high-speed train line could soon (within 20 years’ time) be in place but when was the last time you saw your local roads being improved to make them easier to use during crucial business hours?

It’s way time more thought was put in to help improve infrastructure for industries that are central to Lancashire’s heritage... and more importantly it’s future. Planning for major projects has to be speeded up. Successful economies are increasingly nimble economies.

Without improvements, one day Joe Average struggling to get to the shops might not find anything there to buy, and he anyway may have lost his job to a faster moving country.

Businesses now need to work together, and support the Chamber in campaigning with the local authorities and the 4NW Regional Leaders’ Board with central government on these issues.

John Getty, president, Chamber of Commerce East Lancashire.

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