The Great Western Cities

Alongside Cllr Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council (left) and the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson (right)

Alongside Cllr Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council (left) and the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson (right)

This week, I joined the Leaders of Newport and Bristol to launch the ‘Great Western Cities’ which aims to ensure our three cities work more closely together to compete economically with other regions, like the “powerhouse” city-regions of northern England.

This builds on the finding of the influential City Growth Commission report, which identified 6 ‘power-house super city regions’ upon which future economic growth in the UK will increasingly rely. One of the six consists of the cities’ on both sides of the Severn estuary – the Great Western Cities – representing a genuine Western ‘powerhouse’.

It really makes sense too. The Great Western Cities are some of the most successful in Britain – the figures are compelling:

• Over 2.5 million people live within the Cardiff – Newport – Bristol Region, bigger than all but one of the major urban areas in the UK (excluding London).
• Total GVA of £58bn which is more economically productive than Greater Manchester, Merseyside and any of the northern regions.
• Our closer proximity to London and our excellent quality of life.

In short, the Great Western Cities are a national economic asset. Through working together we can be even stronger. That’s why we issued a statement of intent on Wednesday which identified 3 priority areas where our three cities need to work together.

Our first priority is to be much better connected. We need to be connected to our regions, and that’s why the Cardiff Metro project remains a top priority for us here in South Wales building on the commitment to electrifying the Valley’s lines. And we need to be better connected to London – the £1.1bn electrification of the Great Western Mainline is now underway – and internationally, which is why the proposals for a new rail line to better connect with Heathrow from the West is also welcome.

We also need to be even more connected to one another, to enable a free flow of talent, ideas and knowledge between our cities. The proposed High Speed Rail link (known as HS3) between Manchester and Leeds could cut journey times from 48 to 26 minutes. The travel time from Cardiff to Bristol is 48 minutes and so a similar reduction here would be transformational. We cannot stand back and wait to be HS6 or HS7. That’s why improving the rail link between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol is a top priority for us.

We also have a big opportunity around renewable energy, with one of Britain’s most important natural resources on our doorstep. Together we need to find the right way to unlock the power of the Severn Estuary. This is a big agenda, and is of both national and international significance, and so it’s right that the three cities on the Severn are working together on this issue.

Our third priority is inward investment. On the face of it, our three cities are in competition with each other, but I see three cities with complementary strengths, that together have the scale to make an impact and attract even more international investment.

And ultimately, this is what it’s all about – working together as three cities to attract more investment and create more jobs for the people of Cardiff, Newport and Bristol and those who live in their surrounding areas. And this work is entirely complementary to the work our three cities are doing on building our own city-regions. This is not about creating a new city-region, it’s about connecting the Cardiff Capital Region with Bristol’s city-region to help make both more successful.

As Leader of a capital city, I want Cardiff – and Wales – to be outward looking and networked to the world wider. Joining the UK Core Cities Group last year was a statement of intent for Cardiff.

So is the creation of the Great Western Cities. #GreatWesternCities