THE call for a greater Northern focus to transport investment carries even more significance because it is the considered view of a Parliamentary select committee representing the whole country, and not just Yorkshire backbenchers.
It is also a vindication of this newspaper’s Road to Ruin campaign which, six years ago, started highlighting the extent to which this region has been short-changed because transport spending continues to be so heavily skewed in London’s favour.
Though this Parliamentary endorsement is welcome, as major capital projects continue apace in the capital while schemes like the long-awaited Leeds rapid bus transit system are again put on hold, these words are meaningless unless the report’s powerful conclusions force Ministers to look beyond the outer perimeter of the M25 when allocating resources for the roads or scaling back promises to build new rolling stock that will increase passenger capacity on the East Coast Main Line.
This is disappointing, given that the Tories promised, in opposition, to champion regions like Yorkshire. In office, they have offered token gestures, with the exception of the high-speed rail blueprint.
This is self-evident to all those commuters who travel between this region’s major towns and cities each day. Congestion and overcrowding is getting even worse as costs escalate – further reason, say the Transport Select Committee, why future policy must improve links between Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester for example.
Yet, as backbench MPs conclude, there is little prospect of this happening – or access to under-utilised ports and airports improving – when regional development agencies are being swept away, and when so many decisions are taken by London-based officials who can use an integrated public transport network to travel to and from work each day.
Perhaps a way forward is to relocate the Department for Transport out of the capital to overcome the criticisms that have been made today, and to help re-enforce the coalition’s localism and regionalism agendas. And, if officials are worried about the office costs, they could always utilise Yorkshire Forward’s soon-to-be-vacant headquarters in the heart of Leeds as the Treasury considers the fate of the RDA’s building and land assets.
They might change their approach to spending once they have experienced a Yorkshire rush-hour commute.