Stoke-on-Trent has missed out for decades on the investment in transport that other areas have seen. With a Government committed to levelling up, and dedicated funds available for transport improvements, I am working together with my colleagues across North Staffordshire to make sure we don’t lose out again.
As The Sentinel has reported, the congestion on our roads can be among the very worst in the world. That is not acceptable, and we need to improve our trains and buses as a viable alternative to the car to cut congestion for everyone.
The Prime Minister has already boosted our confidence that Stoke-on-Trent’s time has come by agreeing that if HS2 is to go ahead at all, it must go ahead with the Handsacre Link.
That link is crucial to bringing HS2 services to Stoke-on-Trent and the very thought of it has been attracting investment into the city.
Now that it is confirmed, HS2 opens further opportunities for attracting investment – and with it, jobs and growth. As I have stressed to the Government, for our city’s contribution to national economic growth to be maximised, we require major improvements to local infrastructure.
Ministers have confirmed Stoke-on-Trent will be a recipient of Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) investment. But the exact scale of that investment is yet to be revealed.
We are asking for Stoke Station to become the key transport interchange for the whole North Staffordshire conurbation. This is the same model as other successful cities and has yet to be realised in Stoke-on-Trent because of the linear and polycentric nature of our city.
We want to invest in our city’s wider rail infrastructure and make better use of it. That includes investing in Longport and Kidsgrove.
The £5.5 million secured by Joan Walley in 2015 to see Kidsgrove station upgraded as part of the ‘Access for All’ scheme has yet to come to fruition. I will continue to press Network Rail and the government for these important upgrades to happen.
There is huge capacity for increasing use at Longport station. If we can improve the pedestrian and cycle journey from Longport it can substantially boost the local visitor economy.
Middleport Pottery – which is again shining on our TV screens as the home of the Great British Pottery Throw Down – should be a relatively short walk from Longport station but there are various public spaces that need to be better connected in order to achieve the optimal route.
And our ambitions for local rail go beyond enhancing the local survivors of the Beeching cuts. We want to see reversals too.
Once TCF has been delivered, it will be ever-more evident that we need serious efforts to reopen the line from Stoke to Leek too, ideally with stations to serve Birches Head Academy and Milton.
Another ambition I have is to see the return of a station at Chatterley for Tunstall on the Crewe-Derby line. This would serve both our historic, traditional coalfield communities and our up-to-the-minute Ceramics Valley Enterprise Zone and Tunstall Arrow.
It can’t, sadly, be a straightforward restoration of the old Chatterley Halt, because the line was moved westwards in the 1966 deviation to allow electrification.
But there is a big gap between Kidsgrove and Longport stations and I want to start a conversation on whether a new Chatterley for Tunstall station would fill it, catalysing further economic regeneration.
Finally, buses. I support the moves to bring a superbus scheme to our fine city. We need more routes, better buses, and the kind of bus shelters that display live information that are enjoyed in London.
Without these we would miss out on our potential for maximising the benefits for coalfield communities and areas ready for regeneration that big national schemes like HS2 should bring.
I know the Prime Minister is serious in his desire to level up. In doing that, local transport improvements will be every bit as important as national ones.