North on wrong side of tracks as South cashes in on funding

Mayor of London Boris Johnson on board a new hop-on, hop-off red double-decker bus in London. 84 per cent of government transport spending will benefit the capital.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson on board a new hop-on, hop-off red double-decker bus in London. 84 per cent of government transport spending will benefit the capital.
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THE “shocking” southern bias within the Government’s programme of new transport schemes is laid bare today in a report that reveals 84 per cent of spending will benefit London and the South East – compared with just six per cent for the whole of the North of England.

An in-depth study by respected think-tank the IPPR North, seen by the Yorkshire Post, concludes the much-vaunted National Infrastructure Plan unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne last month will merely “reinforce the dominance” of London and the South East by pouring funds into the UK’s most prosperous and well-connected areas.

The findings come as Mayor of London Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled the first of his expensive new custom-designed Routemaster buses for the capital, having this week boasted of “neo-Victorian levels of investment” in his city’s transport network.

In stark contrast, transport bosses in Leeds have been told their delayed and scaled-down trolleybus scheme will sit on the shelf for several more months before a final decision is made, while “new” carriages rolled out onto the city’s railways this week were in fact ageing cast-offs from elsewhere in the country.

A Whitehall decision on whether to proceed with the first part of the high speed railway line from London to the North was also delayed this week while the Government reportedly considers objections from South East residents.

The Yorkshire Post is campaigning for Ministers to give the region a fairer deal on funding after decades of meagre support.

The IPPR report, to be published on Monday, makes clear the extent of the divide, with planned spending on transport totalling just £201 per head in Yorkshire – compared with more than £2,700 per head in London, and almost £800 in the rest of the South East.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “Skewed spending benefiting London and the South East is nothing new, but these new figures are truly shocking and will strike most people as deeply unfair.

“Of course every country has a capital city, and some of London’s infrastructure wouldn’t be happening without the Olympics.

“But 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.”

The think-tank is calling for a re-evaluation of how future schemes are assessed to try to redress the balance in years to come.

The figures have been widely condemned by politicians from all parties, and seized upon by Labour as proof the Government is still failing the regions. Doncaster Central MP and former Minister for Yorkshire Rosie Winterton said: “It’s clear Yorkshire isn’t getting a fair deal at the moment in its share of transport investment. This sits alongside so many other decisions that affect our region unfairly, because this Government has no strategy for ensuring that regions like Yorkshire get a good deal from public investment.”

The report bases its conclusions on the Government’s updated National Infrastructure Plan – a blueprint for major investment schemes around the UK which contains 70 regional transport projects involving public funds.

Many of the projects, such as the massive Crossrail scheme in London, have been in the planning stages for years, and were given the green light by the previous Government. Others have not yet received the final sign-off.

The Department for Transport (DfT) last night defended its programme of investment, stating many new projects announced in last month’s autumn statement are not included in the official £33bn Infrastructure Plan.

A DfT spokesman said Yorkshire had benefited more than any region in this latest funding round.

He said: “Infrastructure investment is key to growth, which is why we announced £1.4bn of investment in transport schemes outside London last month. We have previously made clear the Government’s long-term vision includes High Speed Rail connecting North and South. However, we cannot ignore the fact London is the biggest city in the UK and a global capital supporting a large number of people who commute from outside.

“The Government’s strategy for transport investment will ensure the maximum possible economic benefit to the UK as a whole.”