Regions 'frozen out' of transport spending splurge

Major transport project spending is skewed towards the south-east and London
Major transport project spending is skewed towards the south-east and London

By Alex Stevenson

"Skewed" transport spending must be diverted away from London and the south-east to redress a "shocking" imbalance hitting the north of England, according to a report.

Research from the IPPR North thinktank has claimed £2,731 is spent per head on Londoners, compared to just £5 per head in the north-east.

The Olympics has prompted extra spending on transport infrastructure projects in the capital, but today's report argues that the unbalanced approach to spending is a much bigger problem and will only reinforce the north-south divide.

"There may be short-term gains to be made in the capital but if we want the UK economy to be firing on all cylinders there needs to be a focus on growth in cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle," IPPR North director Ed Cox said.

"If the government really wants to rebalance our economy then investment in infrastructure in the north would be a good place to start, after all, a National Infrastructure Plan should be just that – at the moment it clearly is not."

The Department for Transport said it had announced investment totalling £1.4 billion in local transport schemes outside London in the last month and flagged up high speed rail as a big part of its long-term infrastructure plan.

"We cannot ignore the fact that London is the biggest city in the UK and a global capital supporting a large number of people who commute from outside the region," a spokesperson said.

"The government's strategy for transport investment will ensure the maximum possible economic benefit to the UK as a whole – this means investing in the regions as well as ensuing that our major cities are able to compete in the world economy."

Only five of the top 20 major infrastructure projects involving public funding benefit the north of England, compared to 11 helping London and the south-east, the IPPR North report noted.

It suggested ministers should review the cost-benefit assessment criteria currently used to decide which projects are worth pursuing, in favour of wider economic productivity effects.

"If the government continue to use a system that reinforces the dominance of London and the south-east we'll all be worse-off in the long-run as the south becomes more congested while the north continues to fall behind in terms of growth," Mr Cox added.

The report attracted support from Labour, which tweeted from its LabourNorth account: "So long as ministers are signing off road and rail schemes in Whitehall, the in-built government bias to the south-east will remain."


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