Regions left behind by London-centric transport investment, MPs warn

29 Jun 18

Transport investment overwhelmingly favours London and leaves regions struggling playing “catch up”, a group of MPs has said.

The cancellation of three rail electrification schemes across the country epitomises a failure to invest in transport outside the capital, according to the transport select committee.

Lilian Greenwood, chair of the committee, said that the debate around disparities in rail infrastructure investment “unsurprisingly re-ignited” after the government cancelled three schemes in the Midlands, south Wales and Lake District, only to announce funding for Crossrail 2 in London four days later.

“Regional economies will never be able to catch up with London while such inequalities exist,” she said.

“They deserve to have a clear sense of what the government is doing to help them attract transport investment and grow economically.”

The committee cited Treasury data showing that transport spending per head in London (£773 per capita) in 2016-17 was more than ten times that of the East Midlands (£70 per capita).

Greenwood said: “The Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine will struggle to live up to their names without tangible change.”

The select committee acknowledged the government was attempting to rebalance the economy and had issued guidance in the form of its rebalancing toolkit. However, this may not make a material difference, it said.

To measure the toolkit’s effectiveness, the committee’s report suggested the government undertake and publish analysis of the difference it has made in regional transport investment decisions every two years.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The next few years will actually see higher government spending in the North, compared to the South, and by 2020 all Northern and TransPennine trains will be new or refurbished, with an extra 500 carriages providing space for 40,000 extra passengers and 2,000 extra services each week.

“A third of all enhancement spending over the next five-year investment period –£3bn – will be used to upgrade the route between Leeds, Manchester and York.”

In may, transport secretary Chris Grayling made the decision to bring the East Coast Mainline railway back under state control.

Read Christian Wolmar’s blog for PF on issues around rail franchising.

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