The stark contrast is outlined in a letter from IPPR North to the new Secretary of State for Transport, urging him to develop a “North First” approach to infrastructure investment.
Most of the UK’s future infrastructure investment is in London and England's South-East, the letter warns.
But a focus on the North of England, including its cities, ports, national parks, energy assets, £300 billion economy and 15 million citizens, could unlock real and fair prosperity.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “The referendum result showed that now more than ever, we need a ‘North First’ approach to investment.
“To build Theresa May’s ‘Better Britain’, we must focus on a better North. The North of England’s £300bn economy is worth more than those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Focusing on this is going to be critical in creating the prosperity our country is going to need over the coming years.
“The North must also “Take Control” of its own funding decisions. The evidence shows that this would help boost growth, ditching HM Treasury’s outdated and ineffective model, better suited to mitigating congestion than driving new economic growth."
The letter also urges the Transport Secretary to focus on four key priorities:
- As part of the government’s new industrial strategy, using record-low interest rates to raise £50 billion “catch-up cash” to invest in northern road and rail priorities, to unlock the vital private and foreign investment that such schemes will ultimately need. Theresa May and Phillip Hammond have indicated support for increased borrowing on infrastructure as part of a new industrial strategy, and this must be pushed.
- Persuading HM Treasury to overhaul its flawed funding model, which is outdated and not suited to driving economic growth. New ways of assessing the benefits of transport scheme, and devolving 10-year budgets, will make for much more effective long-term planning.
- Introducing a new Clean Air Act for major cities to tackle toxic air, which kills 40,000 people a year and costs the NHS and the wider economy more than £20 billion a year.
- Ensuring the passage of the Buses Bill through parliament – which, with the creation of Metro Mayors with London-style transport powers in major English cities from next year, will make a genuine difference to the daily lives of millions.
The letter invites the Secretary of State to visit the North and see first-hand the lack of investment – and the growth that a “North First” policy on transport investment could unlock.
Tom Kibasi, Director of IPPR, added: “The time it takes to travel, on hugely dated infrastructure, between our great regional cities is a national disgrace – this is just not what happens in Germany, Japan or France, with their fantastic rail links, or the United States, with its highly developed regional air travel.
“Given the Brexit result, the North of England must urgently see growing prosperity. A proper east-west crossing would boost northern and UK growth, and must now take priority above all other major transport projects, including Crossrail 2 and HS2.”