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Transport investment will 'always favour London', MPs warn

The report suggests London will always be favoured when it comes to transport investment under the current guidelines. Credit: PA

The North will continue to lose out to London when it comes to transport investment unless the way schemes are assessed changes, MPs have warned.

A new report by the Commons' Transport Select Committee suggests the current method of judging projects by how much they cut journey times favours areas with a stronger economy.

This encourages further economic activity and congestion, and is "working against" the Government's intention to rebalance the economy, the cross-party committee found.

Greater importance should be placed on the impact on regeneration when assessing potential schemes, the MPs concluded.

The current appraisal methods, which heavily weight journey time saved, will always favour London.

– Transport Select Committee report

The committee welcomed the Government's recognition of the issue, but expressed doubts that its "rebalancing toolkit" guidance will be sufficient to make a significant difference.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sparked anger in July last year by supporting a new £30billion Crossrail 2 scheme in London and the South East days after a series of rail electrification projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North were axed or downgraded.

The think tank IPPR North claimed earlier this year that planned transport investment in London is two-and-a-half times higher per person than in the North.

The capital will receive £4,155 per person compared with just £1,600 in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber regions combined, according to the analysis.

The Government described the figures as "misleading" and "highly unrepresentative", adding that Transport for London projects should not be included as they receive no central funding.

While we accept that annual snapshots of comparative regional investment can be problematic, and that investment in one area can lead to benefits in another, some regions have faced decades of under-investment in their parts of the rail network.

They deserve to have a clear sense of what the Government is doing to help them attract transport investment and grow economically. The Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine will struggle to live up to their names without tangible change.

– Lilian Greenwood, chairwoman of the committee

The Department for Transport said it did not agree with the committee's assertion that the appraisal system is "biased towards London".

As this report makes clear, this Government is investing significant extra resources as the railway undergoes its biggest modernisation since Victorian times - making sure people are better connected and their journeys are quicker, more convenient and more comfortable.

A better, quicker, more efficient transport network increases productivity and makes it easier to do business as we continue to rebalance the UK economy.

– Department for Transport spokeswoman