London getting 10 times as much transport cash per head as Yorkshire, says MP

The Transport for the North partnership has to develop plans for the whole region with just £10 million more than Transport for London spent on advertising in 2008, a Labour MP has said.

Diana Johnson added that London would get 10 times as much transport investment per head as Yorkshire in the next few years as she highlighted major inequality in Government spending.

The former minister's comments came as she led a backbench business debate on the issue in the Commons.

"One core goal of public spending should be to tackle the deep-rooted inequalities between our regions, but all too often our transport and infrastructure spending has reflected these inequalities, or even worse compounded them," said the Kingston upon Hull North MP.

"The gap in transport investment between the North and the capital is stark, and widening.

"Nowhere is this divide more apparent than in Yorkshire and the Humber. We are to get just £190 per head in future transport investment over the next few years, the lowest of any UK region.

"London will get £1,943 per head - 10 times as much.

"And Transport for the North, with new statutory powers, is to get £60 million to develop transport plans for the whole of the North of England.

"This sounds impressive, until you note that as long ago as 2008 Transport for London was spending £50 million just on advertising."

Ms Johnson said it takes longer to travel from Liverpool to Hull than London to Paris, and the North would have received an extra £59 billion over the past decade if spending had matched London's.

She also said a proper investment plan for the North could create an additional 850,000 jobs and add £97 billion to the economy by 2050.

"The Government has given us the worst of all worlds, with neither the money to fund our transport projects and lever in private investment, nor the powers to raise funds and promote the North ourselves," Ms Johnson said.

She demanded ministers give priority to "Crossrail for the North" ahead of the Crossrail 2 project, adding: "I don't wish to deny London the transport investment it requires as the capital city.

"But the logic of rebalancing the economy was to take pressure off London and the South East, by investing in regenerating the North, as much as about trying to keep up with the incessant demand for a never-ending list of massive schemes in and around London."

Labour's Judith Cummins (Bradford South) said the Government needed "a better lense through which to view infrastructure investment in the North" that sets out to "solve the problem of regional difference, not one that reinforces them".

"It needs a system that directs investment to the service of rebalancing our economy across the regions."

She said all tiers of Government should have a programme of strategically planned, long-term investment, and said: "A vital first call on Government is to reaffirm its commitment to the Transpennine rail electrification."

Labour MP Ian Mearns (Gateshead) agreed as he intervened, saying: "The Department for Transport has to make economic development a priority, as opposed to alleviation of congestion.

"If it is alleviation of congestion, the money goes to London."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said regional inequality was not just morally wrong but "a colossal waste of space and talent".

He added: "We have, if you like, as the centrepiece of the Northern Powerhouse, HS2, something I support, which is clearly a southerner's concept of what is good for the North.

"The idea that all we need for fulfilment is to get London just a little bit quicker."

Laura Pidcock, Labour MP for North West Durham, said: "I also think it is a class issue, because the people using the services in my constituency are not the type of people that are hiding away millions in offshore trusts.

"They are hardworking people, many of them on the minimum wage, having to spend hundreds of hours, instead of leisure time, travelling to work or their place of study, and paying proportionately so much more for the pleasure.

"There is no such thing as the Northern Powerhouse. It's a fallacy constructed by this Government to divert people's attentions from the grave inequalities of our region's funding."

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed the Government's approach to rail investment had been "promises, postponements and cancellations".

"The rail industry has to have confidence if it is to invest and sadly the feast and famine history of rail programmes doesn't give the industry the confidence it needs."

He told MPs that buses in the North have "faced a sustained attack since 2010".

"Funding in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber slashed by 22%, 23% and 37% respectively, and as a consequence bus travel is at its lowest for a decade while fares have risen 13% above inflation."

Transport minister Jesse Norman said the North was "not a sleeping giant - it's a lively, active and energetic giant" which makes "a huge contribution to the success and the prosperity of the United Kingdom".

He said growth in the North had been "inhibited" by poor transport, but added: "That is why the Government is spending £13 billion on improving northern transport."

He told MPs that building HS2 was the "perhaps the clearest statement I can make of this Government's commitment to the North".

Rounding up the debate, Ms Johnson said: "I think it's typical of a southern transport minister to think the problems of the North can be dealt with by HS2."

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