Transport chief’s funding plea as North-South divide widens

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DESPERATELY needed transport projects in Yorkshire could go ahead if just £7.70 per head was spent per person over five years, a transport chief claimed last night.

West Yorkshire transport Chairman Coun James Lewis, the chairman of Metro, called on the Government to address transport funding gaps after new figures revealed London received almost three times more funding than Yorkshire.

He warned more needed to be done to bridge the gap as West Yorkshire had many transport schemes waiting for grants, such as the Trolleybus network.

Coun Lewis said: “While we accept that London has special needs in relation to transport, the Leeds City Region also has specific requirements which year after year go largely unmet.

“Every year we go through the Department for Transport’s ever-more-lengthy, complicated and expensive application procedures for the essential transport projects needed to keep this region moving and combat ever increasing congestion, and yet we keep seeing funding diverted to other regions, mostly in the South.”

He added: “This cannot continue and the Government needs to now put its money where its mouth is and provide funding for some of our most urgently needed transport projects such as the New Generation Trolleybus network, new rail stations at Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge, and the essential maintenance needed to keep the Leeds inner ring road safe for use.

“Instead of reducing funding in Yorkshire and Humberside from £285 to £276 per head, just £7.70 more per person over five years, would allow these essential and desperately-needed transport projects to go ahead, helping to safeguard the future prosperity of our region and to at last begin to check the escalating North-South imbalance.

“The Government has no chance of meeting its stated aim of re-balancing the national economy while this slide towards ever increasing spend in the South is matched by reductions in spending in the North.”

Transport bosses in Leeds are waiting to see whether the Leeds trolleybus scheme gets the green light from the Government.

Statistics compiled by the Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) using data from the Treasury show £774 was spent per head of population in London last year, compared with just £276 in Yorkshire.

The group, which represents bodies responsible for public transport in England’s metropolitan areas, also said that gap had widened, with spending on London rising as it fell elsewhere.

Earlier transport minister Norman Baker dismissed the findings saying it was hardly surprising that more money was spent in the capital, that it had always been that way, and it was the same with capital cities around the world.

Coun Chris Greaves, former Metro chairman, backed Coun Lewis’s comments saying: “This has gone on for years and years and years.

“We have always been trying to play catch-up and we never do catch up because the amount being thrown at London is constantly going up.

“We are not even standing still but are going backwards. The North-South divide is getting worse and worse and worse.

“The simple fact is that the Government doesn’t care and it is able to get away with that in part because our MPs, and I mean all of them, have not got their act together, unlike in Manchester, where when they want to get something done they form a posse and present a united front.

“If the Government wants to remain the Government they need the North and at the moment they are alienating the North.”

He said another problem was the lack of continuity in Government where “we seem to get more transport secretaries than buses arriving. “I think I’m right in saying in the last Labour government there were 11 in 13 years,” he added.