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Invest in East Coast to boost UK plc – The House magazine Feb 2016

Communities along the East Coast Main Line from London to Aberdeen are the backbone of the UK, and it’s time for investment that recognises the importance of this vital piece of infrastructure.
 
The economies up and down the East Coast Main Line already generate more than £300 billion every year towards UK plc – that’s more than London – and the Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities wants to boost this even further.
 
We’re calling for further investment along the line. Our independently commissioned research shows investing in the line would unlock an additional £5 billion for the economy, or £9 billion when connections to High Speed 2 rail lines are included.
 
This shows the massive economic boost the country would receive from investment. If we act now we can start to realise this potential before 2020.
 
Investment would improve the economies of communities right along the 500-mile length of the line, from Aberdeen and Inverness to London.
 
Economic improvement means jobs. The line already serves a diverse range of industry sectors and businesses – large and small – along its length. Improving journey times, resilience, number of services and the customer experience will help these businesses compete and contribute to local and national growth.
 
ECMA’s 41 members are working hard to secure this economic growth. There’s a range of improvements we want to see, including:
 
• Eight long distance high speed passenger trains per hour each way to London by 2019
• High speed services beyond York to East Coast Main Line destinations as soon as the eastern arm of the High Speed 2 project is built
• Better journey times from Edinburgh and North East England to London to raise connectivity. 

Train services need to be reliable, so we need an infrastructure that is more resilient.
But to make that happen we need politicians, communities and business leaders along the length of the line to sign up and back the Invest in East Coast campaign.
 
The economics make the case, but the argument for joined up infrastructure has never been higher up the political agenda. Our vision for the future of the East Coast Main Line complements the objectives that Transport for the North is looking to deliver, and the new National Infrastructure Commission should help ensure that all infrastructure improvements are co-ordinated in a way to maximise the benefit to UK plc and communities across the country.
 
We’re working with Network Rail at all levels, as well as the East Coast operator Virgin Trains East Coast and will seek to do the same with operators Abellio and Cross Country.
 
We’d like to see you at one of our parliamentary events this summer – we’re holding one in Westminster and one in Holyrood.
 
The aim of these events is to demonstrate to MPs, MSPs, ministers and rail executives, what the East Coast Main Line delivers for the country and its industry.
 
We would invite you to come along on the day to show your support.
More details are available on the Consortium’s website – www.investineastcoast.co.uk, and I would ask you to follow us on our dedicated Twitter account @InvestEastCoast for regular updates.
 
Infrastructure investment is already playing a key role in helping UK plc. The Mersey Gateway crossing in the north west and the ThamesLink and Crossrail projects in London will all deliver huge economic benefits when completed, including improvements in journey times for commuters and freight, urban renewal and jobs.
 
It’s time to unlock the £9 billion in benefits the East Coast Main Line can bring to the country and is as simple as making a commitment to invest in the line now.
 
Cllr Chris Steward is Leader of York City Council and Chair of the Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities (ECMA).