North set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport, think tank warns

May Bulman

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”.

Boris Johnson has been urged to take urgent action after a report by IPPR North suggested government’s planned transport spending for London was almost three times more per head than for the north unless investment in the Northern Powerhouse gets the go-ahead.

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

The figures do not include Northern Powerhouse Rail or recent overspend on Crossrail, which were not included in the planned projects.

The study also found that the transport spending gap between the capital and the north grew over the past decade, with spending per person increased by 2.5 times more in London than in the north.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North and author of the report, called on the new prime minister to “turn years of Northern Powerhouse rhetoric into reality” by taking urgent action to invest in the north and devolve powers to northern leaders and Transport for the North.

He added: “These figures show that the prime minister must urgently follow through on his promises to invest in northern transport infrastructure and devolve power to the north’s leaders.

“The Northern Powerhouse agenda could benefit people across the whole country. Northern transport infrastructure is a national priority.”

Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said the north had been “held back” by government underinvestment in transport and a lack of powers over public transport, including poor rail connectivity and cuts to bus services.

A government spokesperson said they did not recognise the “misleading” figures in the report and that ministers were spending more on transport per person in the north than anywhere else.

IPPR North challenged this point, saying the government’s analysis included just £40.2bn of the £117.6bn total transport investment it contains, and that two-thirds of planned transport spending was consequently excluded from their own calculations.

The think tank said a disproportionate amount of the government’s excluded spending was in London – and that their analysis only included 14.2 per cent of planned spending in the capital.

It comes after IPPR North warned the Northern Powerhouse had been “undermined” by austerity as power and resources were “hoarded in Westminster”, with significant public spending cuts in the region reducing the quality of life of many northerners.

The think tank cited research showing that since 2009/10 the north has seen a £3.6bn cut in public spending, while the southeast and the southwest saw a £4.7bn rise, in real terms.

The Northern Powerhouse was introduced by the then-chancellor, George Osborne, in June 2014, when he outlined an ambition to bring together the cities, towns and rural communities in the north of England to encourage economic growth.

In response to the latest findings, a government spokesperson said: “We are committed to reversing decades of underinvestment in northern transport including providing a record £13bn by 2020 to improve transport networks in the north.

“As the prime minister recently set out, this government wants to drive growth across the north including through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers and investing £3.6bn in towns across England.”