A Tale of Three Cities
Charles Dickens may have been referring to London and Paris when he wrote ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ in 1859, but today he may have considered The Tale of Three Cities as the focus for a book effectively about emancipation of the masses.
Devolution is in a way a revolution, albeit one inspired by government itself rather than by the proletariat.
The Great Western Cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Newport, are three middle weight British Cities who are seeking ever greater collaboration in the hope of benefiting the region they represent better than is currently being done separately.
It is just as quick to drive or get the train over to Cardiff from Bristol (50 minutes) for dinner as it is to travel from say Ealing to Chiswick in London by tube. With the electrification of the railway about to happen, getting the train will be even quicker in future, and of course you can have a drink with your dinner too!
Bristol Mayor, George Ferguson is quoted as saying he would like the train time reduced to 30 minutes which looks very achievable to me.
Travel times are the critical thing in my opinion. It doesn’t really matter how far somewhere is, it’s how long it takes you to get there that’s the real issue.
Bristol, Newport, and Cardiff, currently considered the Great Western Cities, are linked by excellent rail and road connections and already produce more commuter interactivity than the routes between Manchester and Leeds or Manchester and Liverpool, an area now referred to as The Northern Powerhouse.
With three forward thinking councils showing inspired leadership The Great Western Cities are about to become a major Western Powerhouse.
Already these three are net contributors to the UK economy, something that cannot currently be said for the newly termed Northern Powerhouse.
Bristol, which is only around 1.5 hours from London is the de-facto capital of the West Country and has two excellent universities. The University of The West of England (ranked 62) in the UKs best Universities and Bristol University (ranked 15th)
Newport too has its own university. The University of South Wales, (ranked 102) with its stunning state of the art riverside campus, located right in the centre of Newport. Charles Dickens would be pleased because USW offers a well thought of creative writing degree course among many others.
With an ambitious brand new student village with crisp, ultra modern, ‘super large’ apartments, containing every amenity, including flat screen TVs, superfast broadband connection & a free student bike scheme planned only minutes from Newport city centre campus makes USW well placed to grow exponentially over the next decade.
Newport itself is right at the heart of The Great Western Powerhouse region and forms the central position between the larger centres of Cardiff and Bristol. As I say the three are often referred to as The Great Western Cities or GWC.
In the past Newport has often lost out on inward investment due to the perceived power of Bristol and Cardiff but increasingly it is being viewed as a major investment opportunity due to its high speed broadband connection and its location at the centre of The Great Western Cities area.
With the brand new shopping mall Friars Walk, which opened in November 2015, Newport now has many attractions you would expect of a city growing in importance, including a multiplex cinema right opposite the University Campus.
There are also all the food brands you would expect, including TGI Friday, Nandos, Coffee One, etc etc and being only twelve minutes by train from Cardiff, Newport is becoming a very attractive location in which to live and work.
Cardiff University (ranked 31st) is also of international repute, with well established student numbers providing a vibrant community.
If the area west of London is not to lose out to the north and metropolitan midlands as devolution expands, the success of the GWC initiative is essential.
The area has a large and diverse skilled workforce, first class educational facilities, and is exceptionally attractive for individuals and families to live and work in.
Bristol vibrates to the hustle and bustle expected of an established historic and cultural centre with over 440,000 people in it. It has won ‘Best Place in Britain to Live’ on several occasions and was European Green City in 2015.
The Welsh capital of Cardiff, whilst smaller at around 320,000, feels much the same. Newport, fast growing and currently with a population in excess of 140,000 continues its upward projection.
The three together with all their hinterlands provide the centers for nearly 2 million people across a diverse ethnicity and skill base.
In this instance the word ‘Powerhouse’ is properly descriptive.
The Great Western Powerhouse has a certain ring to it and anything that promotes growth must surely be listened to by government.