Businesses have been urged to stress the multi-regional importance of Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLtH) to push it up the Government’s agenda.
Guests at our Spotlight on Heathrow webinar on November 26 heard how around 14 million will benefit from the link, many in the West Country, Wales and the West Midlands.
Ruth Bagley, chair of the Thames Valley Chamber’s working group, told the meeting the drive to secure funding had looked positive until earlier this year when Covid hit soon after the appeal court decision against the third runway.
However, she said WRLtH was based on a two-runway airport and it’s case is stronger than it was a year ago.
She added: “We are doing our very best to stress this is a multi-regional project. It may only six and a half kilometres but it’s a multi-regional project and I would urge anyone, whether they’re from within the Thames Valley or further afield, don’t lead with ‘this will be great for Slough and Reading’ because the DfT tell me ‘we know that’.
“You’ve got to get the rest of the country to be shouting as loud as you are. We have got large parts of the rest of the country shouting but we need to keep that going.”
Bill Hicks, head of infrastructure at Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, said: “I think one of the challenges that we have, both as a region and in the light of the news yesterday (Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review) is in terms of making sure that, through the levelling up agenda, we have a strong enough voice at the table to make sure that, for relevant projects such as this, we get the requisite finance coming from the centre.
“I’m not against the levelling up – that’s all right and proper, absolutely – but we need to make sure that some of the key infrastructure plays, that are going to make a real difference to UKPLC, are going to materialise.
“For me, Western Rail Link fits firmly in that area, not just for me in Berkshire, but as everyone has said, for the west country, west midlands and for Wales.”
He said the scheme is a fraction of the cost of other major projects such as HS2 while the benefits are very significant.
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