On Tuesday I attended the first meeting of the Tees Valley Transport Board.
It brings together the 5 Tees Valley councils (Darlington, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveand and Hartlepool), represented by their respective Transport Cabinet Members, together with representatives from (amongst others) the Highways Agency, Teesport, Durham Tees Valley Airport, the Government Office of the North East and Network Rail.
This is part of the emerging Tees Valley City Region initiative. The role of the Board is to oversee joint projects, particularly the Tees Valley Connect project (£39 million of investment in bus infrastructure), improvements to the trunk road network, and the Tees Valley Metro project.
The latter is being led by Tees Valley Regeneration. I've blogged already on the Metro scheme - if the bid is successful, in 2012 there will be a regular 15 minute service between Darlington and Saltburn. As part of the plans, there will be the opportunity to properly connect Durham Tees Valley Airport with the wider rail network. Existing stations will be upgraded.
Most excitingly, the rolling stock will have the ability to use rail and road. So there could be the prospect that services could connect directly into Darlington town centre, for example.
That's some way off. And as you may have seen on the front page of this morning's Echo, the whole thing has to be paid for. Whilst existing rail subsidy will cover the greater part of the cost, as part of the City Region idea, it's being floated that a supplemental business rate could plug the gap.
At the meeting I said that a lot more effort has to be put into properly consulting the public about the scheme. Clearly this has to include the business community. The public have to be convinced if this ambitious project is to be taken forward.