The Government is being urged to adopt a ‘North first’ approach to infrastructure investment, which it claims will better serve all of the UK and close a massive North and South spending split.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) analysis claims that an average of £280 per person will spent on infrastructure between 2016/17 and 2020/21. This, it claims, compares to a figure of £1,870 for someone in London. In addition, the IPPR says the £4.8bn spent on Crossrail for the period will be more than the £4.3bn spent on all projects in the North.
The IPPR has written to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling urging him to take on a ‘North first’ policy for transport infrastructure investments, which it says will create more inclusive growth for the UK as a whole.
This includes asking for work to be urgently brought forward on High Speed 3 (HS3) – an east-west crossing – even if this means taking priority over High Speed 2 (HS2). The Government has committed a £60M package for exploring work on HS3 between Leeds and Manchester and is exploring options for a Trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester.
IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “The referendum result showed that now more than ever, we need a ‘North First’ approach to investment.
“To build Theresa May’s ‘Better Britain’, we must focus on a better North.
“The North of England’s £300bn economy is worth more than those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Focusing on this is going to be critical in creating the prosperity our country is going to need over the coming years.
“The North must also take control of its own funding decisions. The evidence shows that this would help boost growth, ditching HM Treasury’s outdated and ineffective model, better suited to mitigating congestion than driving new economic growth.”
The letter laid out four priorities the IPPR thinks the secretary should take on. These are raising £50bn for investment in the North’s rail and road, persuading the Treasury to overhaul its funding model in ways including developing 10-year budgets, introducing an act to tackle air pollution and pushing the buses bill through parliament.
IPPR director Tom Kibasi added: “The time it takes to travel, on hugely dated infrastructure, between our great regional cities is a national disgrace – this is just not what happens in Germany, Japan or France, with their fantastic rail links, or the United States, with its highly developed regional air travel.
“Given the Brexit result, the North of England must urgently see growing prosperity. A proper east-west crossing would boost northern and UK growth, and must now take priority above all other major transport projects, including Crossrail 2 and HS2.”
The Department for Transport has said it will formally respond to the letter, but Grayling said: “As the Prime Minister has said, we will govern for the whole United Kingdom and look to build an economy that works for everyone. That is a top priority and the reason we have set-up a new Cabinet committee to deliver on this commitment, with a strong industrial strategy at its heart.
“Transport for the North are working to develop a Northern Transport Strategy and we are already making the biggest investment in transport infrastructure in generations, spending £13 billion in transport across the region to improve journeys for local people, help industry grow and boost productivity.”