Rachel Turnbull
Jamie Hardesty

North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Rachel Turnbull, CEO of TT2 Limited

In an ongoing series, Jamie Hardesty is talking to North East business leaders in an attempt to understand the region’s feelings towards the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.

This investigation, surveying regional business opinion, hopes to add coherence to the concept and today we’re lucky enough to feature another high profile entrepreneur in Rachel Turnbull.

Rachel, CEO of TT2 Limited, is a key figure working in the North East’s transport sector, responsible for investment and company operations at the new and improved Tyne Tunnel.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?

I hope that it will mean collaboration between the major northern cities, allowing us to speak to central Government with a unified voice. In theory this would provide a more equal balance with other regions, reducing our dependence on London, and rebalancing our economy to create genuine prosperity.

Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?

I believe it is more symbolic at present, but we are starting to see the region’s business community and civic leaders come together to shape it for the months and years to come. Transport for North is one of the most tangible aspects so far, which will effectively act as a statutory body by 2017 and provide the much need connectivity between the northern cities.

Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?

In my opinion there is great confusion and lack of communication for the wider public. There’s also confusion between Devolution and the Northern Powerhouse due to the lack of clarity on the latter. There’s a perception here that it will become a Manchester belt powerhouse and exclude the North East; which is why we have to make sure that we remain fully informed and participate in the discussions.

Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions on infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?

Connectivity is a key driver of economic prosperity. Giving individuals the freedom to move between the northern cities to where their skills are most needed and improving things so businesses are better able to transport their goods and services can only be a good thing.

There are other factors that will drive the rebalancing of the economy; however, without transport connectivity they will remain islands of development, centred around certain cities, which when acting in isolation will not unlock the North’s true potential. Connectivity to the rest of the UK is also an issue, there is little point in building up the North if we’re then isolated on a macro level.

Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?

Skills, training and housing are all equally important. Without the skilled people to develop the northern economy and the right housing for them we cannot grow. Economic prosperity is driven primarily by business, but business is driven by people.

Does the North East need a mayor? If so, who should it be?

The North East needs a pivotal individual with the powers to make decisions on a regional basis rather than within the silos of the local authority boundaries. In my opinion this individual should be independent of specific business and political interests.

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in the North East?

I am very optimistic about the Northern Powerhouse, Transport for North and devolution. I would like to think a combination of all these elements will deliver a much stronger economy for the region. What we must make sure is that we do not take our eye of the ball and remain at the very heart of all discussions.

Thanks Rachel.

To get involved in this series or to find out more, drop an email to Jamie at jamie.hardesty@bdaily.co.uk.

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