Regional Transport Infrastructure — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central 2:30 pm, 5th March 2019

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I agree with him, and in just a moment I will say more about Northern Powerhouse Rail, because it is an important case.

Before I do, I will give another example of how we can achieve growth as a result of investment in regional transport infrastructure: the plan for an east coast main line link-up with Doncaster Sheffield airport. The creation of a station serving the airport has so much potential. It will support the expansion of the airport, create a major economic hub around it and make a further contribution to the UK’s national aviation capacity.

Better connecting our communities and neighbourhoods is how we give people the means to get from where they live to the economic opportunities that are being created around us. It is how we give businesses the means to shift their goods from one place to another in the most cost-effective and efficient way. The truth of the matter is, though, that there are not enough instances where we have managed to achieve those things, because despite having the ambition, we have not had the investment.

Transport for the North has a key role to play in looking at how we can make significant improvements right across the north of England. Last month, the Transport for the North board signed off its strategic transport plan, which calls for an ambitious and bold £70 billion programme of investment in the north’s transport networks. We also agreed the strategic outline business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which my hon. Friend Imran Hussain just referred to, and which will better connect Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Hull and Newcastle.

TfN’s plans are hugely significant, because they remind us of what we are working towards: a transport network that fully integrates all parts of the north, connects our people and businesses with opportunities both within and beyond our great towns and cities, and transforms our economy so that it works better for the 15 million residents of the north. I take the opportunity today to ask the Minister, when he responds to this debate, to say something about how the Government intend to resource those important plans. As he will know, leaders across the north have agreed to a plan that will make a meaningful and lasting difference, but we now need the Government to get behind it and support it.

The situation we find ourselves in is underpinned by a systemic unfairness in the way that the Treasury allocates funding for major projects. The current Green Book criteria used by Government are automatically skewed toward better-performing areas, because they naturally favour areas with lots of latent demand, but do not properly recognise that transport infrastructure is a stimulus for economic growth and supports the growth of new demand as well as being a response to existing demand.

Looking at the Government’s own figures, for every £1 of public infrastructure investment spent on transport across Yorkshire and the Humber, £3.20 is spent on London’s transport networks. I am not suggesting that London should have less spent on its transport infrastructure; not only would I be in big trouble with Mayor Sadiq Khan, but investment is critical in maintaining our capital city’s vital transport networks. What I am saying is that, across Britain’s regions, we simply have not had anywhere near enough of what is required to begin to address our economic challenges.

The Government have been talking a lot about issues surrounding regional inequality, industrial strategy, growth and productivity, but if we are not prepared to make investments on the scale that is needed, we will fail to meet the productivity challenge the Government have set. The second question I would like the Minister to address today is whether he will look at the Green Book criteria with his colleagues at the Treasury, so that he can satisfy himself that the funding allocation is fair.