A report from the Parliamentary Transport Committee says “real funding gaps” exist between London and other regions in England that could benefit from economic regeneration.
MPs believe that these funding gaps will only get worse if they are not addressed now, and they exist despite what the report described as “substantial additional investment in the railway network.”
One of the main problems with the appraisal methods in their current guise is that funding for London schemes will always be favoured because that is where most of the congestion occurs; criteria for funding is heavily weighted on both the reduction of congestion and saving time on journeys.
However, this means that less economically buoyant areas of the UK are disadvantaged.
Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The Secretary of State’s cancellation of three rail electrification schemes in the Midlands, south Wales and Lake District, only to be fallowed four days later by the announcement in principle to fund Crossrail 2 in London unsurprisingly reignited the debate about disparities in rail infrastructure investment between London and other regions.
“The Treasury’s own data shows that spending per head in London in 2016/17 was more than 10 times that of the East Midlands. Regional economies will never be able to catch up with London while such inequalities exist.”
It’s interesting that the quote from the Chair mentions electrification because the cancellation of schemes is something the Parliamentary Transport Committee was disappointed with and has urged the government to do more to test, develop and deploy technologies like these in the future on the network.
Although the Parliamentary Transport Committee accepted that lack of available funding for Control Period 5 was a reason for the cancellation, the feeling is the justification “focused entirely on the passenger benefits of the Department’s new bi-mode approach, themselves uncertain, and seemed to ignore the environmental costs.”
MPs on the Committee still feel that the evidence of electrification suggests it’s the “current optimal solution” for those parts of the rail network that are heavily used – balancing passenger benefits with long term efficiency and environmental sustainability.