Boris Johnson has been called on to turn “years of rhetoric into reality” amid analysis which sees Yorkshire trailing behind the country’s capital when it comes to planned transport spend.
Planned transport investment for London is set to be seven times more per person than in Yorkshire, a think tank claims today, unless investment in the Northern Powerhouse goes ahead.
The new research, published by IPPR North, suggests per person spend for London is set to be £2,300 higher than in the North, and £3,125 higher than in Yorkshire.
Further analysis suggests the spending gap has widened over the last decade, with the North missing out on around £66bn had investment been equal.
The Government, dismissing the analysis as ‘misleading’, insists it is committed to reversing decades of under-investment in the North. But it comes amid warnings that past promises must be heeded.
“The Prime Minister must urgently follow through on his promises to invest in northern transport infrastructure and devolve power to the North’s leaders,” said Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North.
“The Northern Powerhouse agenda could benefit people across the whole country. Northern transport infrastructure is a national priority.”
Calls for devolved power
Mr Raikes has called on the Prime Minister to take urgent action to invest in the North and devolve powers.
“The upcoming spending review offers a real opportunity for the Government to turn years of Northern Powerhouse rhetoric into reality, and to finally deliver on promises made to the North,” he said.
Barry White, chief executive at Transport for the North, has backed calls for urgent action.
“For too long the North has been at the back of the queue for investment,” he adds.
And Labour Shadow Minister for Transport, York Central MP Rachael Maskell, said investment must be rebalanced.
“With £2,389 less spent per person in the North, cancelled electrification and the lack of powers to run local bus services, opportunities are being denied,” she warned.
The IPPR research, detailing planned spending until 2033, does not include Northern Powerhouse Rail, or recent overspend on Crossrail which weren’t outlined in the pipeline plan.
Questions over investment
Boris Johnson has faced questions over funding for northern transport projects, after throwing his weight behind a £39bn transport plan to transform the North’s rail network.
Mr Johnson has said the Northern Powerhouse Rail plan should “definitely” go ahead, and in promising to fund the Leeds-to-Manchester section of the route, he added: “As far as I’m concerned that’s just the beginning of our commitment and our investment.”
But the results of polling by this newspaper suggests that many in Yorkshire remain sceptical about whether promises will be realised, with only five per cent believing it was “very likely” the Government would deliver improved transport links and 24 per cent “quite likely”.
Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake, representing Thirsk and Malton, has stressed that he is confident of Mr Johnson’s commitment.
“His Cabinet appointments of Northern MPs Rishi Sunak to the Treasury and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry should significantly increase the likelihood that this much needed programme is finally delivered,” said Mr Hollinrake. “As always, however, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and I will be pressing the case at all opportunities.”
The findings from the IPPR analysis have been dismissed by Government, with a spokesman stating it did not recognise the “misleading” figures as more was being spent on transport per person in the North than anywhere else.
“We are committed to reversing decades of under-investment in northern transport including providing a record £13bn by 2020 to improve transport networks in the North,” the spokesman said.
“As the Prime Minister recently set out, this Government wants to drive growth across the North including through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers and investing £3.6bn in towns across England.”