Mike Hill: Our transport links in the North East need to be improved

Mike Hill, MP, with Bryn Flicker of Helios Technologies.
Mike Hill, MP, with Bryn Flicker of Helios Technologies.

We live on a small island and it should be relatively easy to travel across our country or from one end to the other. I say ‘should’ because for many people that notion bears no relation to their daily reality.

I recently attended a briefing by Newcastle Airport and there is no doubt that the region’s premier airport is doing really well. But as I pointed out, the transport links to and from the airport – particularly from the south of our region – leave a lot to be desired.

To put this into perspective, it’s often easier getting to Manchester Airport from the south of the region on the Trans Pennine express than it is getting to Newcastle Airport by train. That surely is to the detriment of our region.

It’s not just business travellers trying to get flights and commuters trying to get to work who are inconvenienced by our poor rail infrastructure – it affects people in their leisure time as well. A friend’s wife likes to have a regular shopping trip to Newcastle on a Saturday. She usually gets a seat on the outward journey but it’s a rarity on the way back. Two carriages and dozens of people standing for the entire journey seems to be the norm.

I’m reliably informed that the current running stock on our section of the rail network is going to be replaced soon.

I’d like to think we’ll get shiny new trains fit for the 21st century, but my source tells me we will be getting castoffs from another part of the country.

But it’s not just our rail network that is letting the North East down. I’ve mentioned before the problems with the A19 and they won’t get any better until there’s huge investment.

Yes, we live on as small island, but sometimes getting about is like crossing a continent.

l A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a local engineering company that makes high tech gadgets for specialist industries and also makes vital components for huge companies such as Nissan.

Helios Precision Engineering is a great example of a local company embracing new technology whilst relying on traditional engineering skills that have long since disappeared in many parts of the UK.

It was especially heartening to see the company is bringing through the engineers of tomorrow through its apprenticeship scheme. Good on them.

l I mentioned some time ago the amazing coincidence that my mam is now an avid viewer of the BBC Parliament Channel. Forgive me for assuming that her interest may have been prompted by her son’s new job.

Anyway, it seemed only fitting that I should show my mam my place of work. Like most people who visit the house for the first time, she was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it – and probably a bit shocked at how tatty bits of it are.

But, as places of work go, it’s a bit special and I was very proud to give my mam a guided tour.