Govt should invest £22bn in public transport, says NIC
The key to unlocking economic growth lies in improving public transport in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham, according to the National Infrastructure Commission’s latest National Infrastructure Assessment.
With that in mind, the commission is advising the government to commit £22bn from 2028 to 2045 on major public transport projects. Of the £22bn, two-thirds should go to schemes in those four cities.
The assessment follows two years of research into the state of infrastructure in the UK and its role in different communities.
The NIC said less than four in 10 of Leeds’ population can currently reach the centre of the city by public transport within 30 minutes – something the Commission notes is worse than for many European cities of a comparable size.
It also sets out the scale of expected passenger demand growth in future, with an estimated capacity gap of at least 7,000 additional passengers unable to get into Leeds city centre during the midweek peak by 2055, based on current public transport provision.
The assessment says the scale of Leeds’ transport capacity need “is likely to justify investing in tram or rail based projects, although the exact type and mix of projects is a decision for cities to determine with government based on the costs and benefits. Given major scheme lead in times, project planning and business case development should proceed as soon as possible”.
The government should not be the only one funding these endeavours, the assessment noted. It said that those regions benefiting from the investment should contribute at least 15% to 25% of capital costs.
HS2 was not without mention in the report, the commission noting that the elimination of the Birmingham to Manchester leg “leaves a major gap in the UK’s rail strategy”.
The report added: “A new comprehensive and long-term strategy that sets out how rail improvements will address the capacity and connectivity challenges facing city regions in the North and Midlands is needed.
“Government should undertake an urgent review of rail priorities involving local leaders and bring forward a rigorously costed portfolio of schemes with clear delivery timescales.”
Sir John Armitt, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “Growing the size and productivity of Leeds will help rebalance the country’s economic geography as well as create more well paid jobs locally.
“Better public transport and easing traffic congestion is key to that. Leeds is one of four city regions with a clear case for significant government investment in a step change in transport capacity.
“While the way we travel around our big cities may change over time, keeping people moving affordably and efficiently is a key ingredient in economic growth and quality of life. Our recommendations to government set out a costed programme for delivering cleaner, faster travel, shaped by local leaders.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, said: “It’s fantastic to see this recognition of how important investment in transformational public transport infrastructure is to the future of our region.
“We have an ambitious plan for a mass transit system that will serve the whole of West Yorkshire — connecting its important places, tackling climate change and unlocking economic growth across the region and the entire country.
“I hope the report’s recommendations are studied closely by the Government and would urge it and any future administrations to provide the certainty and funding to make them a reality.”