Anyone who has cause to travel between the Moorlands and the City of Stoke-on-Trent will know that it is not always easy. The main roads are busy and congested and whilst there are buses, there is a limit to the routes and their regularity. Not to mention, that all deliveries to and from the Moorlands have to be made by road, which inevitably slows down journey speeds for all.
Getting better connectivity is vital. I want people who live, work and visit the Moorlands to benefit from better transport links creating opportunities for more jobs and a better quality of life. One way that this could be achieved is by the reopening of the rail line between Leek and Stoke. This symbolic project could lead to better transport across the whole Moorlands, so it was fantastic news when the Chancellor agreed in the Budget to fund a feasibility study into what might be possible.
The first meeting of the Board that will consider this project met last Friday in Leek and virtually. I am honoured to have been appointed Chair of the Board, working with the three promoter local authorities of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council, as well as the three MPs from the City. Representatives from Network Rail, local businesses via the Local Enterprise Partnership and the North Staffordshire Chambers and the Churnet Valley Railway are also on the Board to help to put together the business case.
On Friday, we agreed that we need to work with elected representatives for potentially affected areas, schools and training providers, public services like health and businesses, tourism bodies and industry representatives to help to make this the best bid possible. There is a long way to go, but this is such an exciting opportunity for us all.