The quality of the North’s trade links, both nationally and worldwide, will be an essential factor in its bid to become a united force able to compete globally. In Manchester Airport the North already has a world-class global hub, providing access to key cities around the world.  This, along with the regions other smaller airports, will be critical to the development of the Northern economy and the drive for additional inward investment. However there is another string to the North’s economic bow which is easily overlooked, yet plays an equally important role in promoting the region in terms of international trade – its ports.

From Sunderland to Liverpool there are a multitude of ports scattered across the north of England, many of which are undergoing rapid development and expansion. Peel Ports’ new deep water container terminal in Liverpool will be the most centrally located terminal of its kind within the UK, offering a unique opportunity to bring large vessels closer to the country’s industrial, manufacturing and consumer heartland. This facility is a significant “feather in the cap” for Liverpool, as it not only empowers the city to be the national gateway and transhipment hub for Ireland, but also reaffirms its position as the UK’s leading transatlantic port, enabling direct market connections to the Americas, India, the Far East, Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Baltics.

Similar initiatives are taking place across the North, such as a major investment by Associated British Ports into the Port of Hull, in addition to significant investments at the ports of Immingham and Goole. The Port of Tyne is also understood to be planning a circa £180 million redevelopment scheme, whilst PD Ports continues with its own expansion plans at Teesport.

The rise of port-centric warehousing, and the increasing volume of freight traffic arriving in Northern ports, places the North at the centre of the UK’s freight and logistics industry. The current capacity of distribution networks in the region will not meet future demand for effective freight movement, therefore real investment in strategic distribution networks (with rail critical to the movement of freight) is absolutely essential to ensure an efficient and sustainable solution which will enable the North to unlock its global potential.

Being an eminent presence in the landscape of Northern business, with offices in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, we understand that if this potential is to be reached then the region must have a rock solid infrastructure in place. To this end we have undertaken work for numerous Northern clients in the transport sector, in matters relating to transportation, shipping, logistics, infrastructure and aviation.

All of the above elements form part of a clear, integrated plan that will help to transform the currently fragmented North into one economic area. Transport for the North, and other key stakeholders, now have the opportunity to create the infrastructure for a single market for people, goods, skills and innovation that will empower the region to compete globally. “Full steam ahead please”!