Hugh Goulbourne, Chair of the Huddersfield Unlimited Transport and Connectivity Working Group, shares his thoughts on transport infrastructure investment and job creation…
‘Huddersfield Unlimited brings business leaders, politicians and campaigners together across our Pennine towns in bid to deliver much needed transport infrastructure and jobs.
As the government prepares to announce its updated plans for HS3 and Transport for the North it is critical that business and community leaders here in Huddersfield and the surrounding areas are not distracted from the task in hand. Our communities are desperate for local transport infrastructure that makes it easy for everyone to get around efficiently, affordably and safely. We need new and better paid jobs and we want to be able to make the healthy and environmental choice for the next generation.
Like everyone else who lives and works in Huddersfield, I know how hard it is to get between our villages, towns and from here into the cities. The long waits in the cold for a bus or train that never arrives. The wasted time sitting in traffic jams. Put bluntly, our transport system does not work.
It does not work for people trying commute from outlying areas into offices in Huddersfield or Leeds. It does not work for businesses trying to get between Huddersfield and Halifax. And it is certainly not safe or sustainable for families (like mine) that want their children to be able to get to the park or to school without fear of cutting short their lives through exposure to polluted air.
Huddersfield and our surrounding areas have lots of strengths. With a growing, diverse and innovative population and ambitious plans for new housing and our heritage centres of Batley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Mirfield and Slaithwaite, we have a treasure trove of riches to help us make the most of our local area. But to do that we need to get to grips with our outdated Victorian rail infrastructure and haphazardly planned road systems.
Last year Huddersfield Unlimited got together with the Huddersfield Civic Society to form a Pennine Transport and Connectivity working group. Don’t be put off by the title, the emphasis is on work. Despite the pandemic, the group made progress in 2020 towards creating a coalition of organisations, including the Council and the University, to work together on highlighting the case for improved transport and broader connectivity. This leaves us well placed to deliver some tangible projects in 2021.
Our number one focus is to campaign for a rolling programme of electrification as planned by Network Rail and to prioritise the full TransPennine line upgrade including the removal of bottlenecks in Leeds and Manchester.
This is the quickest way for the Government to provide a short to medium term boost to our local economic recovery from Covid-19, including investment in the rail services and stations that serve Huddersfield and its surrounding villages. We are kicking off this campaign with a rail summit next month and will be organising meetings with Government officials and Transport for the North before the summer.
Secondly, we are working with other like-minded groups in and around Huddersfield to assist the Council to create more innovative road scheme projects.
Huddersfield Unlimited is a business-led group and so we are all too aware of the need for road schemes that provide better and quicker access to the M62, to Halifax and beyond. That said as local business owners we are all also residents and so we see that there is a need for these schemes to be designed in a way that improves the overall ‘livability’ of our area. This means responding to concerns about air quality, traffic noise, active lifestyles and climate change by providing a stronger infrastructure for buses, electric vehicles, cyclists, e-scooters and people on foot.
Lastly, we are acutely aware of the need for much greater economic development within our local area.
Huddersfield Unlimited is leading a partnership with the University and Leeds City Region LEP to develop a new health innovation campus that will bring hundreds of new jobs to our local communities. But innovation does not stop there and so we are working on ensuring that our Pennine towns become a centre of excellence for research and development of the next generation of rail and other forms of cutting-edge mass transit.
Electrification, active travel and the next generation of rail – it’s an ambitious programme of work that we have set ourselves for 2021. But it is much needed given the health, environment and economic challenges that are faced by businesses and people here in the Huddersfield area as we look to adapt to the new post-Covid19 world.’