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Budget commentary on Freeports

Budget commentary – To realise the full benefit of Freeports, further infrastructure investment will be essential

Kevin Bell, transport partner at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, comments:

“We welcome the fantastic news that the Government has decided to set up a Freeport on Teesside. This will undoubtedly help deliver transformational improvements and drive forward the levelling up agenda. This Freeport will bring millions of pounds of investment, create significant new jobs as well as support some the UK’s key sectors like clean energy, chemicals, transport and infrastructure to name just a few. The economic potential of the Freeport cannot be underestimated. It is huge and will play an important role in strengthening the North East’s future trading position.

“In order to realise the full benefit of Freeport, further transport and infrastructure investment will be essential (particularly as it is based on a multi-gateway, multi-modal model, with links to rail-enabled sites and Teesside International Airport). Excellent transport links will need to be established to support, for example, just-in-time logistics and operations within the Freeport.

“It is also great to hear that a major part of Her Majesty’s Treasury will be relocating to Darlington, importantly including senior civil service posts that shape policy and decisions. This, alongside the recent changes to the Green Book appraisal process, has the potential to create a more vibrant and beneficial culture of decision-making for new transport and infrastructure schemes here in the North East (not to mention a beneficial increase in traffic on the East Coast Main Line and at Teesside International Airport).

“Yet it is extremely disappointing that the North East Freeport bid has, at this stage, been unsuccessful. And the Chancellor made no further comment or commitment (at least from the dispatch box) to rebuilding public confidence in using public transport, Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 in the North and plenty of other “shovel ready” transport projects that fall within the quick wins pipeline (such as road and rail schemes and electric vehicle charging points).

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