I congratulate Justin Madders on securing this debate on transport issues in Cheshire. As it happens, I intend to visit his constituency tomorrow—[Interruption.] It is already scheduled. I will visit Argent Energy’s biodiesel-from-waste production facility, which is an example of the vital importance of Ellesmere Port to the local and national economy. It will be my first visit out of London since becoming Transport Minister, and I am delighted to do that.
Cheshire is a powerhouse of the northern economy and the UK economy. It is the gateway to the north. It links strongly to its neighbours, the large city regions of Liverpool and Manchester, as well as to the engine of the midlands and, vitally, to north Wales. I recognise that. With its £29.3 billion economy employing over 488,000 people in more than 42,000 businesses, Cheshire is an economic success story and home to almost 920,000 people. The region has particular strengths in advanced manufacturing, science and innovation, and professional services. In fact, Cheshire’s economy outperforms the UK average on a number of measures. The local enterprise partnership’s strategic economic plan is entitled “Cheshire and Warrington Matters”, and I absolutely endorse that view.
The north matters, and transport matters in and to the north. Transport in all its forms and modes is essential for the prosperity, growth and wellbeing of the whole nation. I therefore commend the hon. Gentleman on raising these matters on his constituents’ behalf. The Government recognise that good transport infrastructure is essential for productivity, which is why we are investing significantly across the country to deliver sustained economic development.
That is part of our long-term economic plan—one that we share with the north. As Transport Minister, I am committed to improving journeys for passengers in the north. We are carrying out the biggest investment in transport in the region for a generation. Between 2015 and 2020, the Government will have spent over £13 billion improving and modernising northern transport.