The Transport Secretary has insisted the spending gap between Yorkshire and London is finally closing as local MPs demand further electrification of the region’s creaking railways.
Patrick McLoughlin admitted the Department for Transport is still spending less than half the money per head in Yorkshire that it does in London - but told the Commons the gap was far greater when Labour was in power.
“The Treasury estimates that identifiable public expenditure on transport in 2012-13, the most recent year for which full figures are available, was £246 per head in Yorkshire and the Humber, and £545 per head in London,” the Transport Secretary admitted.
“(But) in 2009-10, the spend for Yorkshire and the Humber was £283 per head and £754 per head in London. I am pleased that under this Government, transport spending in the North has gone up from 38 per cent to 45 per cent (of what is spent in London).”
Mr McLoughlin, the MP for Derbyshire Dales, was responding to complaints from Labour that Government needs to do more for Yorkshire’s ageing railways after years of under-investment.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman told him: “Infrastructure investment is desperately needed outside London. Why can the Secretary of State not make a commitment? He has his heart in the North. Why does he not do something about it?”
The relative lack of investment in Yorkshire’s transport networks stretches back decades, however, and Mr McLoughlin insisted the gap with London is now closing – albeit seemingly by cutting spending in the capital at a faster rate than in the North.
But he also claimed some rail improvements in the capital will actually have knock-on benefits for Yorkshire residents.
“It is important to make the point that the Kings Cross station development and the Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park six-tracking (in north London) are allocated to London spending - but the benefits will be enjoyed by all east coast main line users,” the Transport Secretary said. “It is not always possible to put the value of spending down to certain parts of the country.”
The Coalition insists it is focused on improving the railways across the North, with Chancellor George Osborne in Manchester yesterday to formally launch work on the long-awaited for Northern Hub package of rail upgrades that will improve services across Manchester and West Yorkshire, including the electrification of the trans-Pennine railway. A task force has also been set up at the Department for Transport to investigate the possibility of electrifying eight further routes, including stretches between Selby and Hull, and Leeds and Harrogate.
However, MPs in the Halifax area remain furious their local line did not make the shortlist.
“The Calder Valley line was recently excluded from the list of Northern lines to be electrified,” said Halifax MP Linda Riordan.
“Will the Secretary of State look again at this, and back my campaign to get this line electrified as soon as possible?”
Calder Valley MP Craig Whitaker said it was essential the new task force assesess the case in West Yorkshire.
But Rail Minister Robert Goodwill, the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, insisted the new panel would be free “free to consider the case” for any stretch of railway.
“The Government are investing heavily in the electrification of the network,” he said. “We announced the establishment of a joint taskforce to explore where to go next with electrification in the North. The taskforce has been asked to ensure that eight named routes are considered, but it is free to consider the case for any route in the North, including the Caldervale line.”