THE events of the last year have underlined the importance of connections for every one of us.

While virtual connections became more vital because of the restrictions which made face-to-face meetings difficult or impossible, physical connections – like our road and rail networks – will again be important as our economy recovers from the pandemic.

Connectivity in all its forms has been a key priority for me since I became an MP here in 2015. Indeed the very first opportunity I had as a backbench MP to raise an issue at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons was used to talk about rural broadband and the importance of good, high quality, access to the internet for us in North Yorkshire.

Since then there has been sustained investment, backed by Government, to ensure the most rural areas of this country are not left behind our cities.

The roll-out of superfast broadband in North Yorkshire continues apace and recently I was delighted to be in Coverdale to talk to residents and businesses who in this remote corner of the Yorkshire Dales now have access to the fastest broadband speeds of up to 300Mbps.

Thirty-five homes and businesses – including the Forbidden Corner and the Saddle Rooms restaurant – enjoy a vastly improved service because of this project. More hard-to-reach communities will benefit from the roll-out programme in the coming months.

On the way up to Coverdale I drove along the Aiskew-Leeming-Bedale bypass, and passed under the upgraded A1(M), an example of the more traditional infrastructure investment we’ve enjoyed in recent years.

The investment in connectivity continues on our local trunk roads with preparatory work now well advanced on the dualling of the remaining single carriageway sections of the A66 – a £1bn project to improve journey times on this critical east-west route and also junction safety at places like Ravensworth and East/West Layton.

Road safety is the primary aim of my long-running campaign with neighbouring MP Kevin Hollinrake to bring about further improvements on the A19.

Following the closure of dangerous gaps in the central reservation at Mount Grace Priory and near the Tontine, Highways England have the funding in place to work on other stretches of the road, removing hazardous junctions and crossing points while retaining local access.

Meanwhile, more and more electric vehicles are taking to our roads and vehicle charging infrastructure is vital.

Recently I was shown how new electric charging points have been introduced at the Applegarth car park in Northallerton – and how these points are set into a traditional-looking bollard to blend in with the surroundings. I suspect many people may not even have noticed their arrival!

Darlington and Stockton Times: EVS Energy and Rishi Sunak have launched the Bendy Bedale Bollard, an Electric Vehicle Charger which can withstand the impact of a truck

Designed by a Bedale company – EVS Energy – the bollards are designed to withstand a substantial impact and will appear in other Hambleton District Council car parks.

Finally, and while on the subject of transport, readers may be aware of proposed changes to the timetables of trains serving Northallerton and Darlington stations.

If you are a regular user of services from these stations I would urge you to see how the proposals might affect you and engage in the consultation. These changes may suit some people but not others. There are separate online consultation portals for the services run by LNER, Cross Country and Transpennine Express.