It is incredible to reflect just how much has happened in the West of England (and indeed the world), since I begun my term as the first Regional Mayor back in 2017. I am proud to look back and consider how far we have come since the Combined Authority was first created, and consider the real benefits to the West of England we have achieved over the past few years.
As I started in my role as Mayor, I knew that the West of England had seen decades of underinvestment in our transport network. To get our region moving again and encourage a more sustainable future, we developed our Joint Local Transport Plan, Bus Strategy and Local Cycling and Walking Plan. These are already delivering tangible changes. While large construction projects take time to complete, I know that within a few years we will all be benefitting from new rail, bus and cycling and walking infrastructure.
We have secured and invested over £120m for our future transport which is coming soon. My MetroWest rail network will see at least six new railway stations built and bring more frequent services to people across the West of England; from Severn Beach to Westbury, and Yate to Portishead. Since the pandemic, I have supported the construction of multiple walking and cycling routes across the region, with more to come. I’ve also overseen the trial of e-scooters to provide new options for residents. While Covid-19 has negatively impacted the excellent growth we were seeing in bus and metrobus passenger numbers, we will continue investing in the bus infrastructure we need to provide more reliable services when things can safely return to normal.
I am also very proud of the progress made in promoting employment and skills in the West of England. We are a prosperous region, and I have always strongly believed that every resident must be given the opportunity to benefit from our growth. We have invested to make sure that everybody in the region, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to secure a decent, well paid job. More than 13,000 people now have enhanced skills thanks to the measures we have introduced since 2017. As our region recovers from the pandemic, we are doubling down and investing to ensure that everybody has the skills they need to secure work and be part of the regional recovery.
Our Future Bright programme is helping residents on low incomes and those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic receive bespoke advice and support to develop their skills, increase their income and develop their career prospects. I have also used the control we gained over the Adult Education Budget to ensure that local people are being trained for the sorts of jobs which local businesses are recruiting for. And to ensure that every young person is getting excellent advice about job opportunities in the region and their careers, we have invested to connect a careers and enterprise advisor with every school in the West of England.
As we look towards the future, particularly as we seek to build back better following the pandemic and create a more sustainable environment for the next generation, I am pleased to have taken action to lay the groundwork. Our Local Industrial Strategy and related investments have added over 11,000 new jobs and are supporting industry to develop the next generation of innovative technologies, which will help slash emissions from the aerospace and automotive industries. I have launched the Low Carbon Challenge Fund to help businesses become more energy efficient, and we are rapidly becoming a national centre for renewable energy generation and related services. We have also invested tens of millions into projects which will regenerate our cities and towns, providing renewed, vibrant high streets, new sustainable transport hubs, much-needed office space for our businesses large and small, and new, affordable housing for residents.
In all, I am confident that thanks to the investments that we have made, the West of England will become an even more attractive place to both live and do business. I have worked closely with partners across the region to make long-term decisions which will have tangible benefits for decades to come. I would like to thank everybody who has supported me and the Combined Authority with these ambitious plans over the last few years. I am proud to call the West of England my home, and to have played a role in supporting the bright, successful future that this wonderful part of the country deserves.