In a shocking move, the Conservative Transport Minister Chris Grayling has cancelled a range of high profile transport investment projects in the North. Pledges in the 2015 manifesto promised a significant boost to the Northern economy, by electrifying and improving key transport links. Electrification of rail lines was set to begin between Leeds & Manchester, Windermere and Oxenholme, Cardiff and Swansea, and to Kettering/Sheffield/Nottingham.
Rail line electrification allows for faster and more reliable journeys, especially important in areas like the North East. The North in the UK suffers poor connectivity due to an estimated £59 billion chronic underinvestment, underinvestment that has hampered economic growth, and living standards for residents in the region. The lack of investment in the North has become so severe that an NHS study shows that those living in deprived Northern areas live 8-years-less than their Southern counterparts.
The failure of this government to pump serious financial investment into the Midlands and North has affected the UK’s competitiveness. Historically many Northern cities were competitive industrial cities in either raw material extraction, or manufacturing. Without the funding to develop; transport, infrastructure, and the skills required to develop a modern industrial base, the UK’s manufacturing output has stagnated for a decade. Meanwhile fierce European competitors have seized the chance to race ahead. Without the North of the UK firing at all cylinders, German workers can produce £1.35 worth of products, to every £1 worth of products made here in the UK, a competitive edge that has seen Germany become Europe’s dominating economy.
So where is the money going? Answer: The South.
Due to the unbalanced nature of the UK’s economy, naturally investment favours London and the South. Yesterday Grayling announced his support for the construction of CrossRail 2, transport infrastructure deemed essential to prevent London from grinding to a halt in the future. Whilst the project will cost £25 billion to complete, it has been suggested it could lead to the construction of 200,000 new homes, and creation of 200,000 new jobs by 2033.