Investment in transport in northern England is far behind London


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So, what should we make of yesterday’s report from IPPR North about projected spending on transport in the North of England up to 2033?

Lets first look at those figures:

The north of England is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport, according to a new study which has stoked concern that the north is “held back by government underinvestment”.

The study, by IPPR North, analysed the government’s planned infrastructure projects between now and 2033 and found that planned transport spending in the capital was set to be £3,636 per person, compared with £1,247 in the north.

Yorkshire and the Humber will receive the least of all of England’s regions at just £511 per person, followed closely by the northeast at £519 per person, while the northwest will receive £2,062 per person, according to the think tank.

Are you surprised? Well I’m not. I have never thought much of the so-called Northern Powerhouse, believing that it’s more smoke and mirrors than reality. I regularly go to Leeds and the journey is usually only about 45 minutes less than the trip to London and is about one third of the distance. The trains are squashed and it’s almost impossible to get a seat even if you have reserved one. The London train is usually comfortable and on time albeit it terribly expensive unless you have a pass, can book well in advance and can travel off peak.

As a regular visitor to London I am convinced that it is killing itself off. The commute is getting longer and longer, living accommodation is getting more and more expensive. The standard of living is getting poorer and poorer. The answer from successive governments of all political persuasions is to spend more money solving the problems of London within London. That is a strategy which is ultimately doomed to failure.

The answer to London’s problems is to reverse the continued movement of people to London and the South East by having a set of progressive policies which will encourage businesses and then employees to the North.

One of the things that encourages me that this will work is the continued reaction to people who come to Liverpool, for a conference or events at our well used Conference; Exhibition Centre and Arena. “We didn’t think that Liverpool was like this!”, they say with surprise. When I ask them what they did think there are no specific answers just a set of impressions about poverty, filth, poor employment prospects, poor environments, high crime rates etc.

Another reason that I think that things can change is the opinion of those who have already made that journey North. I called at a house last year and the resident had recently moved to our City. His mate had moved here the year before and another mate was moving here this Summer. Their house was twice the size they could have afforded in Greater London and the commute less than one third of the time. They were in Seventh Heaven (as we like to call Church Ward!)

I hope that a Lib Dem Government would indeed introduce the policy changes that would mean that the North would get its fair share of Development and capital money. The way for this to be ensured is for you poor Southerners to say, “Enough is enough, we won’t put up with these conditions any more, we want to go North and join in with the great standard of life that they already have”.

In case you are worried about Lib Dem deserts up here can I assure you that wherever you moved to there will be a Focus delivery patch available and a warm welcome from your ‘country cousins’!

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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16 Comments

  • David Evershed 20th Aug '19 - 12:02pm

    Surely spending on transport should be decided on the business case – not on an arbitrary measure of new spending per head in a geographic region?

  • David Evershed – it’s kind of a paradox. Poor infrastructures (including transport) and lack of skilled workforce discourage businesses from investing in the North, which in turn leads to low tax revenues for investments and low demand for infrastructures. And the circle continues.

  • John Peters 20th Aug '19 - 1:04pm
  • nigel hunter 20th Aug '19 - 1:05pm

    It is not just a matter of a business case or geography.Less than London!, not surprised. Keep it South and continue the North South divide.. It maintains the system of ‘us and them’ and perpetuates the FPTP voting plan. North West can be a target area for Tories () im Farron) plus it is rural. They can say we are putting money into the area,aren’t we good (to get votes)
    Yes London could die as a place to live unless you have £2 million plus to bring with you A johnson style Singapore.
    A publicity blitz should be pushed to sell the North globally to counteract the right wing media that perpetuates the wrong image (to their advantage) who are London Centric. The North does not sell itself well. That must change.

  • It is not only the north that suffers – the west does too. A quick look shows how relatively modest schemes such as MetroWest Phase 1 and 2 have struggled, and the cascade of 25 year old trains from the Thames Valley was hailed as a ‘major investment’.

    The IPPR North makes a number of pertinent points. One of them is structural – we still have a centralised decision making process in the UK, and until that changes we still have the system where schemes have to go through a cumbersome Treasury-led process, with many of the decisions before a Minister being taken by SE based civil servants.

    Beyond that is the business case process. The obsession with benefit cost ratios invariably mean schemes above a certain cost, will always struggle unless you get the critical population mass and movement. And the process creates a vicious cycle. Where significant investment has gone in, it variably creates the additional demand/future demand to warrant further investment – as seen by Thameslink, soon to be opened Crossrail, emerging Crossrail 2 etc….

    I often have thought there could be major benefits of shifting entire UK government departments outside London to challenge some of the mindset. May be DfT to Newcastle or Liverpool, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to Plymouth etc.

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Aug '19 - 2:11pm

    There has been rather too much emphasis on transport in the N-S debate recently.

    LibDems should be pressing for action on other inequalities between N and S e.g to remedy the problems highlighted in the 2014 Due North report on health

    https://cles.org.uk/publications/due-north-report-of-the-inquiry-on-health-equity-for-the-north/

    One problem is that both LibDems and Tories are inadequately represented in N England. Tories don’t care but LDs should not be afraid to campaign hard on this.

  • Geoffrey Dron 20th Aug '19 - 3:36pm

    @ John Peters – me too.

    Some attempt to reconcile the conflicting stats is required – by Office of Government Statistics??

  • Richard Underhill 20th Aug '19 - 8:23pm

    Some countries have moved their entire capital. A small town in Germany (Bonn) has been moved to Berlin. Politically they had been saying for decades that they would, so they did.
    Quick quiz: What is the capital of Brazil?
    The Economist magazine had a proposal to create a new town for new Queen, called Elizabetha, which has been used in civil service training exercises for decades.
    An unemployment blackspot near Blackpool called Fleetwood was awarded a computer centre for the then Ministry of Health while the programmers commuted from London. Most of the jobs created were data entry, roughly equivalent to typists, but rapidly overtaken by changing technology, which might have been forecast in the “white heat” promised by the Prime Minister.
    There is a song “They couldn’t face rejection in the Hull North by-election” and a bridge was built to go with it. Construction stopped occasionally as the political mood blew hot and cold.
    There is a strong case for Crossrail (Paris already has one). The project has been badly managed but it must be finished and the former Mayor of Greater London (not to be confused with the Lord Mayor, who is neither a lord not a mayor).
    HS1 was given four proposed routes to choose from, thereby maximising blight. Some people seem to think it should connect to HS2, some even think that HS2 should connect to Heathrow. A radical proposal would be to connect Heathrow to Gatwick by rail instead of by air. High Speed rail is good for long distances, so how about actual connections to Edinburgh and Glasgow? (and planning for Aberdeen?)
    Isambard Kingdom Brunel often went over budget, nothing new there, except that we have spreadsheets etc nowadays.

  • Yes the German capital was moved from Bonn to Berlin, or at least the capital of the western part of German after reunification was moved to Berlin when it was reunited with the eastern part. The eastern part always had its capital in Berlin.
    But back to the U.K. There is an urgent need to move the U.K. capital out of London. This would particularly help if we want to preserve the Union. It would succeed if it were accompanied by the introduction of democracy in the country.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Aug '19 - 1:41pm

    Rail journeys are far too slow around Manchester. If the Liverpool, Hull area is to work as one entity, journeys need to be the same as current times to London. Certainly this would help the tourism industry as Liverpool, Manchester and York together would rival London and be much cheaper.

  • Dennis Wake 21st Aug '19 - 2:37pm

    Brasilia and similar artificial capitals have not been successful. If they do become successful they will have the same problems as London. Scots people seem to love London. If they become independent there will have to be an arrangement whereby the SNP can still come to Westminster or the Act of Disunion will never get passed.

    The Government have today set up an inquiry into HS2 to see if it is value for money. As it is not planned to go to Glasgow or Edinburgh it does seem rather pointless There are already 2 routes from London (Euston & Marylebone) to Birmingham as well as the route from Paddington via Reading How many do they need ?

  • John Marriott 21st Aug '19 - 4:39pm

    @Tom Harney
    Bonn became the provisional capital of West Germany as it was hoped that reunification would take place within a few years, with Berlin restored to its rightful place. In fact, it is clear from reading the Schuckburgh* diaries from the early 1950s that this was still on the cards as far as the post war Churchill Government was concerned. Because cities like Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich couldn’t agree amongst themselves, Bonn was chosen as it was, or at least was said, that it lay conveniently close to the home of the first West German Chancellor, the pre Nazi era Mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer. I believe that Aussies solved the problem by building a brand new capital, when Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide couldn’t agree.

    As regards transport, scrap HS2 and spend the money on upgrading regional railways and building HS3 from Manchester to Leeds and Newcastle.
    *Sir Evelyn Schuckburgh was the PPS to Sir Antony Eden

  • Geoffrey Dron 23rd Aug '19 - 8:57pm

    @Richard Kemp -accepted.

    Now LibDems must press for extended devolution in the N of England

    https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/uk/we-want-100-per-cent-devolution-across-the-north-business-leaders-urge-boris-johnson-1-9914989

  • Geoffrey Dron 23rd Aug '19 - 11:45pm

    @Tom Harney – relocating parliament.

    My personal view is that we need to complete English devolution first, with, for an initial 10 year period, MPs for English constituencies sitting as the English Parliament at Westminster. After the convention referred to below, we can look at shifting the English Parliament to, say, the old northern capital, York and/or having separately elected MEngPs.

    Devolution to English regions should ultimately be a matter for the English Parliament, which should be set up after the 2019(?) GE.

    This would be my approach, but we really need a constitutional convention to start working early 2020 and report before 2024(?) GE. Obviously this would have a wider remit, but feedback from the measures referred to above would inform its deliberations in this area.

  • Geoffrey Dron 24th Aug '19 - 12:46am

    @Tom Harney – relocating parliament.

    My personal view is that we need to complete English devolution first, with, for an initial 10 year period, MPs for English constituencies sitting as the English Parliament at Westminster. After the convention referred to below, we can look at shifting the English Parliament to, say, the old northern capital, York and/or having separately elected MEngPs.

    Devolution to English regions should ultimately be a matter for the English Parliament, which should be set up after the 2019(?) GE.

    This would be my approach for this particular area, but more generally we really need a constitutional convention to start working early 2020 and report before 2024(?) GE. Obviously this would have a wider remit, but feedback from the measures referred to above would inform its deliberations.

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