Fund transport outside London properly, say MPs

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Transport projects in parts of England outside London have been underfunded in recent years and this "cannot be allowed to continue", MPs have said.

The Transport Committee also argued that changes to the way money is shared "could disadvantage the regions".

It called for a review of funding by the 2020 general election, adding that spending per head in London was more than twice that elsewhere.

But the government said its projects would "benefit all areas of England".

The committee's report looked into new arrangements, from 2015, for local decisions on transport spending to be devolved to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and more competition for contracts.

LEPs bring local authorities and businesses together to decide on investment priorities including roads and buildings.


It said ministers must "ensure that there is a fairer allocation of funding" than at present.

Committee chairman Louise Ellman, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: "Far less money is spent on transport projects outside London than in the capital. This inequality has gone on for too long and has to change."

The Institute of Public Policy Research says transport infrastructure spending is £2,500 per head in London compared with £5 per head in the North East.

Mrs Ellman said: "Even on the government's figures, transport spending per head in London is more than twice that in the English regions."

She added: "The government has again changed the system for distributing money to local areas for major transport projects, with much more emphasis now on competition for funding.

"This will not necessarily help regions get a fairer share of transport funding and could make the situation worse."

Mrs Ellman added that the government's focus on using competition to bring in private sector funding for projects "could disadvantage the regions, where there tends to be less private sector money available compared with London".

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image captionMinisters point to the proposed HS2 rail project as benefiting the English regions as well as London

She also said the Department for Transport had to ensure "strategically significant schemes such as access to ports don't get overlooked and that areas covered by a number of LEPs do not miss out because of fragmentation".

For Labour, shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: "This report raises serious questions about the government's delivery of local transport schemes.

"Unnecessary competition between local transport bodies and repeated changes to local transport funding can lead to delayed delivery of new transport schemes and lack of accountability to local people."

But a Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have invested more than £6bn in 2011/12 alone in developing transport infrastructure outside London.

"Our plans for major schemes like HS2 and the £600m Northern Hub, which will transform rail in the North, as well as countless local road projects across England show how committed we are to delivering improvements that benefit all areas of England, not just the capital.

"Local Enterprise Partnerships understand local issues and solutions best and their priorities will drive local transport funding decisions."

He added: "We will give full consideration to the committee's report and respond fully in due course."

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