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Mean on Sunday: business must welcome the new Western Gateway

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director & vice chair GFirstLEP

Business must welcome the new Western Gateway plan for Western England and South Wales which could help the UK a global leader in net zero energy.

This Western Gateway Hydrogen Delivery Pathway suggests that investing in Hydrogen infrastructure will in the area create up to 40 000 new jobs (directly and indirectly) and safeguard a further 60 000 existing jobs.

The Western Gateway Partnership driving this Hydrogen initiative is the Pan-Regional Partnership for Western England and South Wales.

It reaches from Swansea to Swindon and aims to bring together businesses, research and local leaders to work together to add £34 billion to the UK economy and reach reach net zero.

Details of the Western Gateway Hydrogen Delivery Pathway were revealed at their annual conference on Friday in Newport.

Key factors from the ground-breaking report suggest:

*The area could become a centre for net zero rail innovation

*The plans would require education and skills providers to re-train up to 108 000 workers and build a pipeline for new skills for the future

*The area would need between £8 billion and £62 billion of new investment in order to make the most of the opportunities

I am no scientist or net zero expert but this Hydrogen Pathway aimed at helping the UK become a world leader in decarbonising key sectors seems spot-on.

However, in my view, this sort of big, imaginative plan will be just a pipe-dream unless government makes it clear it is willing to back it financially.

Likewise, the recent Strategic Rail report from Western Gateway is a very good piece of work. But that has something like an £8 billion price tag.

Western Gateway-in its relatively short life so far-has had strong leadership in Katherine Bennett as chair and in John Wilkinson, a very good operator who knows the ins and outs of government very well.

But the big question they face is: Where is the money coming from?

And we all want to know where is the national industry strategy that business has been waiting for?

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