Life in Politics with Coun Judith Blake: Transport is key to unlocking economic growth

The scandalous lack of Government investment in transport infrastructure in the North compared to the South goes on.

Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 4:27 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 4:32 pm
Leeds Station

A report at the end of 2018 by the IPPR North Think Tank found public spending on transport in Yorkshire fell by £18 per person last year, while at the same time increasing by £90 per person in London.

This means people are not able to access the widest number of jobs that could be on offer to them. In order for businesses to prosper and create jobs they need transport infrastructure that provides easier access to suppliers, goods and workers.

The chaos last year on the rail network highlighted very dramatically the issues of a network that in places is already running at capacity.

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Without new infrastructure the new capacity and connections needed to enable more people to travel by train won’t happen. There is still a long way to go to address this, but I’m pleased we are at least in a better position now to make the case for investment in the North. This is a result of Leeds City Council’s efforts together with other councils in the North and the business community to speak with one voice through Transport for the North to persuade the Government they have to listen to us.

Transport for the North’s asks are not just a collection of schemes from which to pick and choose, but a coherent plan where HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, an upgraded TransPennine line and other investments are integrated and all needed for each to reach their full potential.

Much of the debate about the North-South running HS2 and the East-West running Northern Powerhouse Rail has centred on how money should only be spent on either/or. How we should only be allowed one or the other. However you never hear that argument made about transport spending in London and the South East. Earlier this month I accompanied business representatives to Westminster to launch the Leeds Key to the North campaign. We delivered a clear message to Government and MPs that HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and improved local connections in tandem with the development of Leeds Station into a world class transport hub are the key to unlocking economic growth across the UK post Brexit.

With Leeds Station we have an opportunity to create a world-class gateway that connects the three million people across Leeds City Region to the rest of the country. It would help rebalance the national economy and act as the catalyst for wider regeneration opportunities within the city, not least the work that has already begun on the South Bank. It makes economic sense to give Leeds and the North our fair share of investment and we will continue calling for it until we have a Government that does just that.

Coun Judith Blake is the leader of Leeds City Council.