Opinion: ‘Building Peterborough back better’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 2:00 pm
There has been rail investment in Peterborough. Photo: Shutterstock

Build back better. You’ve heard it and Peterborough is doing it, but what does it mean? I was delighted to be at the opening of the new GB Railfreight headquarters this week, which are a perfect answer.

Moving more freight by rail – and less in lorries – is important for many reasons. For a start, it frees up road space, it’s quicker and it’s much better for the environment. Our railways can also transport materials like steel far more easily.

GB Railfreight invested in new intermodal sidings in Peterborough last year, allowing it to put more freight on the East Coast mainline. But that was just the beginning for the local changes.

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Their new, £3 million Peterborough HQ is a huge vote of confidence in our city. Not only does it house the company’s control centre, but they plan to become the UK’s leading training provider for the sector, with three purpose-built classrooms and state-of-the-art simulators.

It’s local people and our youngsters who will benefit. They are offering some fantastic apprenticeships and already getting people into new roles. If you ever day dreamed about becoming a train driver, this could be your moment.

Around 120 people will go through the training facility in its first year alone. This adds to my reasons to be cheerful. The job prospects and opportunities in Peterborough right now are incredible, with even more on the way through the new technical university and our manufacturing companies.

The rail minister, my colleague Chris Heaton-Harris MP, was really impressed on his visit. He did the official ceremonials, alongside me and our excellent city council leader, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald.

Rail freight helped keep the country moving during the pandemic, as Chris stressed. It’s so important to recover economically, now restrictions have lifted. This new HQ demonstrates how Peterborough is building back better.

Chris also noted how important rail freight would be for the UK’s environmental objectives. The Government wants to decarbonise transport, as part of our country’s goal to be net-zero by 2050.

Contrary to the impression given by some campaigners, the UK has been leading the world in reducing carbon emissions. Since 1990, we have cut them by over a third, more than any other G7 nation.

That wasn’t inevitable. Emissions in the US increased slightly over the same period and Canada’s are way up.

Back in 1990, the Green Party argued that economic growth was inherently bad for the environment. There are still people whose idea of progress is the Stone Ages (presumably without all the wood burning).

Businesses and new technology are the answer to our environmental challenges, not the problem. Growth and lower emissions can go together and have. Getting to net zero will only be worth it, however, if other countries do their part too. The UK can’t stop climate change on its own.

I am sceptical about policy ideas that would hit people here in the pocket.

Yet given sensible, practicable choices, greener is always better. Building back better is no different.

We can be more prosperous at the same time as being greener. And we’ve already begun.