Transport spending must benefit all regions, say MPs
Johnstone | 24 February 2012
MPs have called
on the government to do more to show that transport spending is being fairly
spread across England, amid concerns that funds are being concentrated in
The Commons transport
select committee welcomed the additional investment in road and railways
announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement but said worries remained that the English provinces were not as well catered
for as the Southeast.
In a report, Counting the cost: financial scrutiny of the
department for transport 2011/12, the MPs said theDepartment for Transport should
produce an annual analysis of its spending by region and show the regional
impact of announcements such as Budgets.
Louise Ellman said yesterday the DfT should also meet an earlier recommendation
to produce a national transport strategy explaining what it aims to achieve
with its spending. She added: ‘It is now a full year since we first made this
recommendation in our report Transport
and economy. So we look forward to hearing more from ministers on this
crucial matter when that report is debated on the floor of the House on
A DfT spokeswoman
said the government could ‘not ignore’ the fact that London was the biggest
city in the UK with a large number of commuters.
She added: ‘Infrastructure
investment across the UK is key to growth, which is why we have committed over
£1.4bn for 41 local transport schemes outside London in addition to £1bn of new
investment by Network Rail and over £1bn for the strategic road network. We
have also outlined our vision for a new national high-speed rail network
connecting North and South.
‘The government’s strategy for transport investment is designed to ensure the
maximum possible economic benefit to the UK as a whole. This means investing in
the regions as well as ensuring that our major cities are able to compete in
the world economy.’
Ellman said there
were ‘real concerns’ about how the projects given the go-ahead by Osborne in
the Autumn Statement were chosen.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening had told the committee
that the 35 road and rail schemes were chosen because they could be undertaken
quickly. These included a new railway from Oxford to Bedford and electrification
of the Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester.
pointed out: ‘A project’s
readiness to proceed does not necessarily demonstrate that it is the best way
of using public money to promote growth.’
The announcement also took place outside the process for
deciding rail investment, she said. This involves five-year spending plans,
called control periods, being agreed across the industry.
Negotiations for the next period, to begin in April 2014,
are already under way, and the MPs warned that the Autumn Statement ‘by-passed
They called for the projects announced not to affect the
funding that will be available for the 2014–2019 period. Reducing the scope of
spending to take account of the new projects ‘would be counter-productive’ if
the government’s aim was to increase spending to boost the economy, the report