Connectivity the key to a successful City region

The publication of today's report by an alliance of five cities - Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield should be a wake up call to other areas of the UK.

The recognition that inter-city region connectivity is key to forming a successful northern economic counterbalance to London demonstrates the maturity of the City Region psyche across the north. It also demonstrates an evolution of Prescott's 'Northern Way' - a sinuous economic link across the M62. It is significant that the rail zeitgeist has infused the latest incarnation of Northern urban connectivity. However, what is really telling is that whilst they may not have solved all of their internal challenges, the leadership of these cities have reached a capacity at which they can collectively strategise for a £15bn investment from the Chancellor, much of which is about improving connectivity.

Image courtesy of BBC

Image courtesy of BBC

This is particularly relevant to Cardiff but also potentially relevant when one looks at Cardiff, and Newport (and potentially Bristol) together. For example, the urban areas around the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal (which include Widnes, Runcorn, Salford, Warrington, Liverpool and Manchester) are already collaborating to deliver an ambitious connectivity, open space and economic development agenda under the banner of Atlantic Gateway.

The need for the very highest levels of frequency, quality and integration across regional public transport is something that the Cardiff Capital City Region Metro will hopefully address. The importance of today's publication by other cities with whom Cardiff should be competing immediately raises the stakes for the Metro in South East Wales. If the region isn't able to deliver the kind of system that globally relevant city regions now require as standard then Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys will see other regions of Britain accelerate into the economic distance.