West Anglian transport improvements will benefit the UK as a whole

 

The London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSCC) was formed as a strategic partnership for this vital economic corridor. It brings together a diverse range of public and private sector organisations including the Greater London Authority, London Stansted Airport, AstaZeneca and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, as well as the region’s local authorities.

All our members have a common aim to seek economic growth, higher employment rates and to provide places for people and businesses to thrive. At the LSCC we believe the best way to achieve this is ensuring sustainable labour mobility – i.e. public transport investment.

We are convinced that securing a sustained programme of investment in the West Anglia railway line will unlock the ability to build more homes, create more jobs and create a radical boost to the UK’s economy.

The West Anglia Line links some of the most dynamic economies in the UK and some of the major regeneration and growth centres in the UK; Cambridge, Stansted, Harlow, Tottenham and the Upper Lea, Stratford and the Olympic Park and the City.

Projections suggest that the population in our corridor is set to grow up to an extra 1.4million people in next 20 years. To cater for that around 600,000 new homes will be needed.

Along the corridor we have a wealth of brownfield and regeneration opportunities for residential developments, specifically in the Upper Lea Valley, but until connections are improved there will simply not be the capacity to use these areas to their full potential. Thousands of urgently needed new homes in brownfield development areas can only be unlocked if we invest in the railway line.

An improved West Anglia route will also enhance employment opportunities in some of the most deprived and poorly connected communities in the South East. Better connections will tie together deprived areas of high unemployment with booming centres of employment, which struggle to fill vacancies like Stansted Airport and Cambridge, reducing commuting times and improving opportunities for those living there.

This will have a ripple effect across the rest of the UK. The corridor is already a world leader in high-tech and bioscience along with jobs in the creative industry and other sectors.

Just looking at one sector, there are 1,400 life sciences businesses in the corridoor, 20% of England’s total employment in the sector, generating between £2.6bn and £3.1bn gross value added. The sector in our region is projected to grow at 3.5% per annum and currently attracts 43% of the UK’s life science venture capital. We need to strengthen the links, specifically between the clusters of Harlow, Cambridge and east London.

And finally, investment in the railway that connects London to Stansted is an investment in aviation capacity, without the downsides of a new runway. Stansted has spare capacity for an extra 15 million passengers. A new runway at other London airports is decades away and this is the only investment that will deliver meaningful improvements in aviation quickly and has been strongly backed by Sir Howard Davies in the Airports Commission.

For all these reasons, the LSCC was delighted when Boris Johnson and George Osborne announced the new West Anglia Taskforce on 20th February 2015, specifically to speed up the process of delivering investment in the line. We look forward to working as part of the task force, which is due to report to the chancellor in spring 2016.

The West Anglia Task Force will look at ways to improve connections, journey times and frequency. The LSCC is excited at the prospect of working very closely with the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Network Rail to push forward plans that will provide huge benefits to the LSCC’s broad range of members across both the public and private sectors and the UK economy as a whole.

Stephen King is the deputy director of the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium.

 

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