Investment in transport in northern England far behind London

It’s good news that the first Pacer trains are being removed from service 10 years late but the North deserves to get its fair share of public and private investment if it is to thrive.

So, what should we make of today’s report from IPPR North about projected spending on transport in the North of England up to 2033?

Lets first look at those figures:

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”.

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

Are you surprised? Well I’m not. I have never thought much of the so-called Northern Powerhouse, believing that it’s more smoke and mirrors than reality. I regularly go to Leeds and the journey is usually only about 45 minutes less than the trip to London and is about one third of the distance. The trains are squashed and it’s almost impossible to get a seat even if you have reserved one. The London train is usually comfortable and on time albeit it terribly expensive unless you have a pass, can book well in advance and can travel off peak.

As a regular visitor to London I am convinced that it is killing itself off. The commute is getting longer and longer, living accommodation is getting more and more expensive. The standard of living is getting poorer and poorer. The answer from successive governments of all political persuasions is to spend more money solving the problems of London within London. That is a strategy which is ultimately doomed to failure.

The answer to London’s problems is to reverse the continued movement of people to London and the South East by having a set of progressive policies which will encourage businesses and then employees to the North.

One of the things that encourages me that this will work is the continued reaction to people who come to Liverpool, for a conference or events at our well used Conference; Exhibition Centre and Arena. “We didn’t think that Liverpool was like this!”, they say with surprise. When I ask them what they did think there are no specific answers just a set of impressions about poverty, filth, poor employment prospects, poor environments, high crime rates etc.

Another reason that I think that things can change is the opinion of those who have already made that journey North. I called at a house last year and the resident had recently moved to our City. His mate had moved here the year before and another mate was moving here this Summer. Their house was twice the size they could have afforded in Greater London and the commute less than one third of the time. They were in Seventh Heaven (as we like to call Church Ward!)

I am always aware just how good our lifestyle is here. Within an hour and a half, I can be in the middle of the Lake District, Welsh Hills or Peak District. I have immediate access to a world-renowned Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. We have seven world class museums which attract major exhibitions such as the terracotta army last year. We have 4 theatres, 1,000+ restaurants with cuisines from all over the globe; 981 listed buildings which make us unique, three great universities. The football is excellent in all our major cities (with the obvious exception of Manchester). The list is almost endless.

Of course, other cities in the North aren’t quite as good as Liverpool but all of them have a full list of quality homes, easier commuting and first-class facilities! I have no hesitation is saying that’ like for like’ you will have a better standard of living up here.

There are some things that the Government needs to do to make life even better and hopefully irresistible:

  • We want a level playing field so that we get our fair share of taxpayer funding for a range of infrastructure projects.
  • We need grants to persuade some businesses to come north and a combined advertising and marketing campaign from the City Region Mayors and Government to get some business owners to come and look what its like north of Watford!
  • Sort out the main routes across the Pennines to the Yorkshire and Humberside and north-east regions. Improve the commute from some of the suburbs into all the major Cities.
  • Place research activities into our huge range of Universities and then back businesses which are established to build on that research.
  • Provide quality public sector housing for public and private sector workers

But the biggest way forward is not ultimately dependent on the Government. It depends on businesses and people wanting to break away and develop in cities that are big enough to have everything but small enough to get out of!

I hope that a Lib Dem Government would indeed introduce the policy changes that would mean that the North would get its fair share of Development and capital money. The way for this to be ensured is for you poor Southerners to say, “Enough is enough, we won’t put up with these conditions any more, we want to go North and join in with the great standard of life that they already have”.

Shake off your shackles, fight your prejudices, open your eyes and join us in embracing all the good things that the North of England has to offer.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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