The UK is still under-investing in transport infrastructure, says IPPR

New analysis shows that per head spending in London is £3636 compared to £519 here in the North East. Richard Dawson speaks to IPPR North’s Luke Raikes, to get the inside track on the state of UK transport infrastructure

The IPPR’s analysis of transport spending shows that if the North of England (comprising the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber) had seen the same per person investment as London over the last decade, it would have received £66 billion more.

But the regional disparities in investment are not the only story when it comes to UK transport spending.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, says: “As a country, we don’t invest anything like as much as we should in transport infrastructure. Compared to Germany and France, we just under invest.

“So, we do need big infrastructure projects and we shouldn’t baulk at the scale of some of these things. HS2 looks like a lot of money. It’s £50 billion but that’s simply the cost of a major train line that spans most of the country.”

With Phase 1 of HS2 already underway between London and cities in the North West and West Midlands, the IPPR have argued that Phase 2 needs to start in the North so that other regions can benefit from high-speed lines.

They’ve also argued for the strengthening of the Northern Powerhouse as a way to overcome some of the regional disparities highlighted.

“What the Northern Powerhouse manages to capture is what the North could be, rather than complaining about how it has been or focussing too much on its post-industrial legacy”, says Luke.

As well as long-term infrastructure projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail, there’s a number of short-term issues that could offer ‘quick wins’ for the North if implemented.

In the North East, Luke highlights things like the re-introduction of passenger services on the freight line between Newcastle, Blyth and Ashington and the extension of the Tyne and Wear Metro, widening the service into the West End, Metrocentre and Washington.

Another key area that is often forgotten in discussions about transport spending is bus regulation or bus franchising powers.

Luke explains the benefits of having local bus regulation by looking at the example in London.

He says: “London gets to control its own bus routes. They’re owned by private companies, but they’re run by Transport for London and this means that they take the money that you put in when you get on the bus and then they’re able to invest, to coordinate and to integrate their ticketing so that it basically works like a transport network in London.

“In Manchester, Newcastle or Leeds, you often have several different bus companies and you often don’t have smart ticketing. It’s not managed, it’s not accountable and it doesn’t really work.

“If we’re looking for quick wins as well as long-term investments, then we start with buses.”

With the UK still under-investing in its transport infrastructure when compared to other countries, it no surprise that they’re a number of projects big and small that need Government attention.

The new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to reinvigorate the Northern Powerhouse, but with so many areas to address, the question is will it ever be enough?

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