Is transport derailing Tech in the North?
Everyone complains about their morning commute. Public transport is packed, delayed and expensive. But what if these minor annoyances are stifling the growth of tech in the North?
Bosses from across the North this week have been demanding better transport infrastructure from the Government. Issues with train timetables over the last month have played havoc with businesses and it seems that employers have finally had enough. Deloitte’s new report Power-Up showed that 55% of businesses believe that current infrastructure needs some serious improvement. 95% of businesses say that the Northern Powerhouse railway and transport proposition is important to the North.
How much of impact would improved public transport have on the North? Well, it would enable better collaboration across the Pennines and the North East. Traveling from Leeds to Manchester for a meeting can take anywhere between 50 to 90 mins. This doesn’t sound too bad until you learn that Leeds sits between two of the most unreliable stations in the UK: Manchester Oxford Rd and York. 68% of training coming from Manchester Oxford Rd were canceled in the last year. It’s easy to see why a business would prefer to work with others who are local. It’s also important to remember that this is also the usual train line to Manchester Airport. Investing in improvements to line alone would make international travel so much easier.
The tech sector relies heavily on sharing knowledge, particularly for start-ups. Developers need to be able to ask other developers for guidance on projects. This is where meets-ups come in handy especially for smaller cities like Bradford and Barnsley. Better connectivity for businesses based in based in these places would mean that the could take advantage of the tech communities in larger, nearby cities.
As more businesses move up North, rents for business units are likely to rise as a result. Good transport links would mean startups could position themselves outside of the cities where the rates are still low.
Then there is the unavoidable issue of recruitment and digital skills. Northern Universities are starting to appear in the top rankings for computer sciences, but students may struggle to secure their dream job if they are dependant on public transport. Think about it, if you study in the North and want a job locally, you will have to save for rent and car. OR you could move back home and live with your parents and take your time looking for another job closer to Mum and Dad. Businesses lose out on excellent talent and opportunities to grow.
Currently, there appears to be no solution in sight. Today, National Rail announced that fares would rise again by 3%, the highest that they have been in years. In the meantime, we will all just wait for HS2 to be completed…in 2033.