TACKLING congestion in Yorkshire’s cities should be a national priority, the Government has been told.
Gridlocked roads were highlighted as one of the major obstacles to economic growth in the UK in a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission.
It highlighted figures showing more than 70 per cent of workers in cities including Leeds and Sheffield use their car to get to work compared to less than a third in London.
The same cities have seen their populations grow by more than six per cent over the last decade as job opportunities are increasingly focused in urban areas.
Train services around cities are also under strain with one-in-six passengers standing on their communte into Leeds, the report said.
It recommended funding for transport should be given the same priority as support for major projects to connect cities such as the HS2 high speed rail line which will offer fast rail services between Leeds, Sheffield and London.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake, who also chairs the Core Cities group of major UK cities, said: “The UK’s infrastructure is currently not fit for purpose and is holding back economic growth particularly in the UK’s biggest cities.
“This must be addressed as we approach Brexit, and as the human costs of poor air quality become ever more apparent.
“This is an issue for all UK cities, recognising that our economy relies on London and all the Core Cities being able to deliver more.
“But we also cannot expect cities outside the South East to accept delayed or reversed decisions on infrastructure commitments whilst others go ahead.
“As a nation we need to move on from an ‘either-or’ process of decision making, investing to grow the whole of our economy, and creating more freedom in local decision making to speed up the process and reduce costs.”
The Commission’s report warned that the UK was lagging behind the United States, the Netherlands and Japan on broadband and 4G speeds.
It said urgent action was needded to ensure that the UK meets targets to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality standards.
The report highlighted the “extensive flooding” which hit Yorkshire and other parts of northern England in December 2015 as it made the case for measures to make the UK more resilient to extreme weather events.
Lord Andrew Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “We have a proud history in this country of delivering world-class infrastructure – but for years funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain.
“The endless delay to a Parliamentary decision on Heathrow is a case in point – and perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all. If we are to make the most of our economic potential and compete globally, we need the ‘Heathrow is full’ sign to come down.
“But we also risk falling behind internationally if we don’t improve our mobile and broadband connections, and residents of our great cities will suffer unless we do something to improve air quality.
“We cannot afford to sit on our hands – Ministers must act now to tackle the Three Cs of congestion, capacity and carbon if we are to have infrastructure fit for the future, supporting economic growth across the country.”
x-ref to leader