The “northern powerhouse” was the Conservatives’ big idea for closing the north-south divide and winning over sceptical voters in the north of England.

But an analysis of government figures released on Tuesday shows that in the four and a half years since the northern powerhouse agenda was set by the then chancellor, George Osborne, transport spending per person has gone up twice as much in London as in the north of England.

The analysis, by the thinktank IPPR North, suggests that while the capital has seen a £326 per person increase in public spending, the north has seen an increase of less than half that – £146. Transport spending per person remains approximately twice as high in London as in the north, as it has for the past decade.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, spending fell by £18 per person, more than any other region. Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds city council, described the drop as “profoundly disappointing” and said the West Yorkshire combined authority would continue to make the case for investment in major infrastructure, “including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and an upgraded trans-Pennine route, alongside support for integrated local services”.

IPPR North renewed its call for the Department for Transport to follow through on promises to invest in the north and to devolve power to Transport for the North, a new statutory body.

Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “Today’s figures show us that government still needs to follow through on their promises to make the northern powerhouse a reality.

“An increase in spending in the north-west in the past year is very welcome. As is the £37m announced in the budget for transport in the north, but the north-east and Yorkshire and the Humber are yet to see such a boost, and investment in the north still pales in comparison to spending in London. People are continuing to suffer the very real effects of decades of underinvestment, and the ongoing chaos on northern trains is a clear sign of how far there is to go.”

In its own analysis of the expenditure figures, the Treasury said the higher spending on London was “at least partly explained by the fact that for many functions it is more expensive to provide services in the capital, due to higher staff and infrastructure costs”. It added that spending by Transport for London also benefits commuters who live outside London but use TfL services while commuting.


Helen Pidd North of England editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Manchester wins again in northern transport lottery – at cost to others
With appalling rail services and congested roads, change can’t come soon enough but plans centre on one city at expense of the rest

Helen Pidd North of England editor

15, Mar, 2016 @12:11 PM

Article image
Transport gap: London gets £419 more per head than north of England
North has missed out on £63bn over 10 years due to chronic underfunding, thinktank says

Helen Pidd North of England editor

01, Aug, 2018 @3:38 PM

Article image
Trans-Pennine rail tunnel key to £15bn transport plan for northern England
125mph line modelled on Eurotunnel would link Manchester to Leeds and Sheffield, which currently suffer severe overcrowding

Helen Pidd, northern editor, and Dominic Smith

05, Aug, 2014 @12:06 PM

Article image
TransNorth rail and road plan unveiled but unions call it 'electioneering'
Proposals for high-speed rail, better road links and a tunnel under the Pennines could speed up travel between northern cities but Aslef calls £65bn plan ‘fanciful’

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

20, Mar, 2015 @12:01 AM

Article image
Pacer train passengers deserve fare cuts, say northern England leaders
Northern Rail urged to compensate people forced to use outdated ‘buses-on-rails’

Maya Wolfe-Robinson

21, Oct, 2019 @9:38 AM

Article image
George Osborne backs £15bn investment in five northern cities

Chancellor meets leaders of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield over 'northern powerhouse' plans

Patrick Wintour, political editor

05, Aug, 2014 @4:11 PM

Article image
Northern Powerhouse Rail: backers say HS2 is vital to its success
In the north of England, the arguments over whether to push on with the HS2 high-speed rail project are as polarised as they are in Westminster. Helen Pidd speaks to those in favour

Helen Pidd North of England editor

04, Feb, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Tories promise £4bn for public transport in Midlands and north
Election pledge counters Labour plans to renationalise railways and cut ticket prices

Peter Walker Political correspondent

04, Dec, 2019 @12:01 AM

Article image
Let's hear it for all buses - not just Boris Johnson's Routemasters

A meaningless gimmick in London grabs the headlines, says writer and transport consultant Roger Davies, while elsewhere on the UK's buses, pips squeak

Roger Davies

21, Feb, 2012 @4:00 PM

Article image
Plan to transform transport across north of England unveiled
Transports chiefs claim £70bn 30-year road and rail upgrade will create 850,000 jobs

Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent

31, Jan, 2019 @12:14 PM