IPPR North disputes government transport spending claims and calls for more devolution

The leading think tank for the north of England has hit out at the latest government figures on transport spending claiming ministers “continue to obscure the facts” and says more devolved powers are needed.

It comes after the figures from the Department for Transport’s (DfT) analysis of future spending had shown there will be greater investment into road and rail upgrades in the north compared to London and in the south. 

The DfT report claims that between 2018 and 2021, it will be investing £831 per head on road and rail upgrades in the north-east, north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber – more than £30 more per head than London and the south at £799. 

According to ministers, more than £1bn is being spent on improving the north’s rail network with further investment through the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises to deliver room for 40,000 more passengers to travel on over 2,000 more services a week, with all trains replaced or refurbished by 2020. 

As part of the government’s commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), Transport for the North is also said to benefit from £60m to develop proposals for the scheme, alongside £300m to ensure HS2 can accommodate future NPR services.

The figures were unveiled as aviation minister Baroness Sugg visited Liverpool Airport ahead of attending the Northern Transport Summit in Manchester. “We are investing more than £13bn to improve connections across the north between 2015 and 2020, getting people to their work, family and friends, quicker and easier than before,” she added. “This investment demonstrates the government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse, which will help unlock economic growth and much-needed housing across the region. 

But the IPPR North say these figures are based on just a “narrow selection” of spending and the full picture shows the capital still receives more than two times per capita than its northern counterparts.

Commenting on the latest government figures, Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “The government continues to obscure the facts behind regional transport investment. Only by focusing on a narrow selection of transport spending are they able to claim that the north is set to receive more. The full picture shows that London will receive 2.6 times more per capita spending than the north. The government continues to dispute these figures instead of acting on them but the north has been promised investment and the transport secretary must now follow through. This is yet more evidence that central government can’t be trusted to run the north’s railways. The government now needs to devolve much more power to Transport for the North.”

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