First class transport links will create path to prosperity in North Wales

A renewed call has been made to push ahead with the strong transport links which are essential to power the economic growth of North Wales.

That was the key message David Jones, chair of the Deeside Enterprise Zone, had for members of Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP).

Mr Jones, who became the Principal and Chief Executive of Coleg Cambria in August, was one of four influential guest speakers at the meeting at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Wrexham.

Wrexham Business Professionals is a group of highly skilled professional firms of solicitors and accountants working together to raise the profile of expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

Mr Jones was recently appointed to serve on a special Welsh Government task force advising Transport Minister Edwina Hart on how North Wales can take advantage of rail modernisation.

According to Mr Jones, first class transport links were crucial to the region’s future prosperity.

He said: “From my work on planning the development of land around the Sealand area of Deeside I know only too well of the competitive threat coming over the border from enterprise zones in England, especially Warrington.

“That’s why it is so essential that we are ready to meet these challenges.

“Our transport links, such as the A55, present a massive opportunity for economic growth. However, they have got to be capable of moving materials and people in the most efficient way and we must make it easy for people to be able to work at either end of North Wales.

“You can’t tell people travelling into this region they can only go so far by electric train and then have to change over to diesel for the last bit.

“Now is the time to get behind a real push on transport. That means improvements to the A55 and the electrification of our railways, particularly the link from Wrexham to Liverpool.”

Mr Jones said a particular improvement project he had in mind involved a rail station lying within the Deeside Enterprise Zone.

He said: “It’s called Hawarden Bridge Station and could play a vital role in stimulating growth in the zone.

“I want to see it upgraded to become a modern part of the line from Wrexham to Liverpool.”

Mr Jones added: “We must not take what we have in North Wales for granted. Just because we have a few big companies here don’t think we’re okay.”

Another guest speaker, Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, who is also the Local Government Minister, also emphasised the importance of good transport to the region’s economic strength.

She said: “The Welsh Government realises this and only recently approved the doubling of the single track Wrexham to Chester rail link by 2015 at a cost of some £44 million. This will improve train capacity and frequency.

“We would also like to see electrification of the Wrexham to Liverpool rail line, which is crucial to this area.”

The Minister added: “I was delighted to be appointed by Edwina Hart to chair the new task force advising her on how North Wales can benefit from rail modernisation on which David Jones also sits.

“It is made up of representatives of the North Wales local authorities, enterprise zones and the private sector.

“We had our first meeting a week ago I’m glad to say we have several more meetings planned.”

Members of Wrexham Business Professionals also heard from Professor Michael Scott, Vice-Chancellor of Glyndwr University, who outlined the vital role his scientific teams are playing in creating the world’s biggest telescope.

From its location at the summit of a mountain in Chile, the £1 billion European Extremely Large Telescope will be able to gather light from distant stars galaxies.

Scientists at Optic Glyndwr, a specialist company based in St Asaph which works under the auspices of the university, recently won the space race to polish mirrors needed to make the giant eye in the sky a reality.

Prof Scott described how it had taken them four years to perfect a method of polishing the 1,000 hexagonal mirrors to a tolerance of just 400th of the breadth of a human hair and said they were now working on a method of applying the polishing process to two mirrors in one week rather than only one in six months.

He revealed that the work being done by Glyndwr had created such a stir in the scientific world that the university had attracted high-powered visitors from governments across the globe, including North American space agency NASA, wanting to learn details of the mirrors project.

Prof Scott said: “We are currently in talks with a number of companies to find an international partner with whom we can jointly bid for the contract to polish the mirrors, which is worth about £100 million and would bring enormous benefit to the university and the whole of North Wales.

“These talks are taking place with advice from both the Welsh and Westminster governments but whichever partner we choose they must agree that some of the work on the mirrors is done here in North Wales.”

Final speaker of the morning was Askar Sheibani, one of Wales’ most successful entrepreneurs and head of Comtek Network Systems, he also chairs of the Deeside Industrial Park Forum.

Mr Sheibani recalled his early days in business – from selling eggs produced by his own chickens at the age of eight in his native Iran to developing a giant electronics business with a turnover of £12 million with bases in Flintshire, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Reading and Belfast.

He also described the success of a scheme which was his brainchild to help budding entrepreneurs take the first step on the ladder to success.

This was piloted in Flintshire and has already seen 50 young businesspeople start their own firms.

Backed by the Welsh Government, it is now set to be rolled out across the country, starting in Wrexham.

He told members of the business professionals group: “One of the main reasons for starting the scheme was that I am passionate to see that the entrepreneurs of today don’t have to get through the barriers that I had to.

“These people can change the world, not just in their own country bit across the globe.

“We have got to identify them, support them and make sure they thrive.

“I have been asked by the Welsh Government to roll out this project and I am pleased to say Wrexham will be next.”

All four guest speakers were thanked on behalf of  Wrexham Business Professionals by Gill Atkinson, one of the group’s founders and a director of Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditors Coxeys, who said: “They have all shown us how to make a dream become reality.”

She added that she was delighted to announce that all four guest speakers at WBP’s pre-Christmas meeting at the Ramada Plaza Hotel starting at 5pm on Wednesday, November 27, would be from Wrexham-based businesses which were successful in this year’s Wales Fast Growth 50.

They are Village Bakery, Glyndwr Innovations, which is the business arm of Glyndwr University, Jolly Good Vehicle Rentals and specialist electrical equipment company Cable Services.

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