“North should not be left on the sidings” says NEPIC chief executive

To make our region truly prosper, we need to see the best possible transport system. Getting people and goods across the North, and further afield, will boost the economy and living standards.

Yet there is no more vivid illustration of the north-south divide than our region’s share of the cake for transport infrastructure spending, particularly on rail.

It is a boom time for rail projects in London and the south east. Passengers at Waterloo station may be suffering longer commuter journeys this month, but that’s because there is an £800 million investment being built at the station.

By chance, I happened to be in central London this weekend and walked past Tottenham Court Road tube station. Billboards outside that station proudly proclaimed how the £14.8 billion Crossrail project would make it easier to travel east to west across London. Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has backed calls for a sequel to Crossrail, costing some £30 billion.

In contrast, just days after that announcement, the Transport Secretary said a pause was needed for electrification of rail lines in Wales, the Midlands and here in the North.

I don’t begrudge the spending in London, but there is something profoundly wrong, unfair and economically misguided when the capital and the south east sucks in ever more of transport infrastructure spend at the expense of regions like the north. IPPR North, a policy organisation, states that over the past decade public spending on transport in London has been more than double that in the north – we need to receive £59 billion for the north just to catch up and get the same per person for transport as for London.

Of course choices have to be made, but in order to make true the Prime Minister’s vision of an economy that works for everyone, decisions have to be made to allocate transport spending not on alleviating congestion in the South East, but to boost economic development and growth in the North.

In the post Brexit world, when Britain should be trading with every corner of the world, why not have a fast and modern rail line running between Liverpool in the west with Teesside in the east, linking two strategically significant ports with the best and most efficient means of transporting goods on land.

This isn’t an anti-London tactic. It’s about allowing the North the freedoms and flexibilities to boost productivity, trade and exports, ensuring that our region ultimately contributes more to the nation’s coffers and allow the talent and opportunity of the North to be realised.

Iain Wright, NEPIC chief executive

Source: Northern Echo

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