South East Wales

Cardiff and Bristol 'should cooperate on Severn region'

Second Severn crossing Image copyright Sarah Charlesworth
Image caption A Severn region could help win the argument for more infrastructure investment, the mayor says

The Cardiff and Bristol regions need to work together or risk losing out to the big northern hubs like Manchester, according to the mayor of Bristol.

George Ferguson told BBC Wales that they should not go head-to-head against each other on every area such as operating competing airports.

He was in Cardiff to talk to business leaders and academics about the prospects for a Severn region.

The mayor said he wanted to see quicker transport links between both areas.

He welcomed the electrification of the rail line to Swansea and the prospect of an M4 relief road as a good start.

Mr Ferguson argued that failing to cooperate would lead to a "danger we'll be left out of the party" on investment in major projects like high speed rail, HS2.

"The northern hubs, the Manchesters and the Leeds, are winning the argument at the moment in terms of the pull they've got from central government with HS2.

"[They have] massive infrastructure investment and I see absolutely no reason why working together we can't get the equivalent infrastructure investment here to give us much stronger transport links both with the east, with London, and with the north via Birmingham," he said.

Welsh city regions

Two city regions have been set up in south Wales by the Welsh government with the Cardiff Capital region covering the south east and the Swansea Bay region further west.

Cardiff and Bristol are in competition to attract companies and jobs but Mr Ferguson said that competition was nothing compared to what both faced from city regions across Europe.

Many supporters of the idea of greater co-operation cite Øresund as a successful economic region which joins Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden by bridge.

Image caption Some in south west England expressed competition concerns when the Welsh government bought Cardiff airport

Mr Ferguson added that Bristol and Cardiff did not need to compete in every field.

He cited airports as an area where facilities would be better shared.

"Bristol is the biggest Welsh airport in terms of its use and I think we should not necessarily have to compete on every single issue.

"I think there'll be greater strength on the east of the Severn for some things and there'll be greater strength on the west of the Severn for other things.

"And maybe we'll come to an accommodation in terms of recognising that one airport is a stronger hub than the other.

"If we work together we can think about providing each other's facilities rather than just our own."

The Welsh government bought Cardiff airport for £52m following concerns about a lack of investment in the facility by the previous owners.

It saw passenger numbers rise by 9% in the first 10 months of public ownership.

However, while over 1m people travelled from Cardiff in the last year, Bristol had almost 4.5m passengers.

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