Gap Between Britain’s Regional Economies Is Biggest Of Any Country In Europe, Labour MP Says

The gap between Britain’s regional economies is starker than that of any other country in Europe thanks to the north’s poor transport links, according to a Labour MP.

Diana Johnson, who will lead a debate on the issue on the Commons on Monday evening, says for every £1 of government spending in the north, London received £2.59 – and future budgets should concentrate on redressing the balance.

The Hull MP fears the difference will become more pronounced after plans to electrify northern rail projects were scrapped.

“The gap in transport investment between the north and the capital is stark, and it is widening,” she is expected to say.

“From 2016/17, future projects are set to be even more skewed towards our capital, with London getting £4.55.  Nowhere is this divide more apparent than in Yorkshire and Humber. We are to get just £190 per head in future transport investment, the lowest of any UK region. London will get £1,943.”

Diana Johnson says the gap between regions will only get bigger unless transport links are properly invested in.

Johnson says productivity levels in the north have still not recovered from the financial crash of 2007, and while the north is expected to receive £13 billion in transport investment this Parliament, it still falls short of the £14.8 billion ploughed into the capital’s Crossrail 1 project alone.

“For all the talk of an economic and jobs miracle, full recovery still seems a distant prospect for many of our northern constituents,” she added.

“If the north had received the same transport investment as London over the past decade, we would have received an additional £59 billion. It is in the national interest that we plug this gap and reduce regional inequalities.”

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has previously claimed new bi-modal, diesel electric trains planned for projects outside London will bring the “same benefits” as electrification – but northern MPs are sceptical and Johnson wants a full, independent assessment to be carried out.

Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham say northern rail links should be prioritised over Crossrail 2.

She has also backed calls from Manchester and Merseyside metro mayors, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, for the government to prioritise the creation of a high-speed rail link linking the east and west of the country in the north over Crossrail 2. 

“We need to northern institutions which can finance infrastructure projects and drive forward private investment, backed up by a network of regional investment banks,” she added.

“Rather than embracing these opportunities, 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 power to raise funds and promote the north ourselves.

“Most fundamentally, we need a long-term, cross-party commitment addressing Britain’s regional inequalities, and plugging the gap in investment between London and the rest.

“Future budgets and autumn statements could, and should, be measured against how they reduce these inequalities.”