A Wearside MP has called for a fairer nationwide deal for public transport cash.
Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to press for the Government to ease the North-South divide in funding.
Government figures show central spending on transport in the North East has dropped by almost 20% over the last decade, and the region accounted for only 2.8% of overall UK spend last year. While London receives £1,900 a head of population for transport projects, the North East gets just £300.
Ms Phillipson called on the government to support Lords’ amendments to the Bus Services Bill to allow transport authorities such as Nexus to introduce London-style franchising of bus services and for Nexus to be given the funding to upgrade the Tyne and Wear Metro and extend Metro-style services across Wearside, including to Doxford International Business Park.
Nexus today announced it is to invest £20moillion in the Metro’s overhead line system, as problems affected services between Heworth, Sunderland and South Shields.
Responding for the government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Andrew Jones made no specific comment on the House of Lords amendments to the Bus Services Bill but the minister refused to give any date for a decision on expansion and extension of the Metro.
If the Government is as serious about rebalancing the UK economy away from London as it claims, ministers need to act now and give the North East the funding it needs.Bridget Phillipson
“I was delighted so many colleagues from the North East attended my Westminster Hall debate and joined me in pressing the government for a fairer funding deal for our region on transport, a better bus service for Tyne and Wear, and for greater investment in the Metro and regional roads and rail,” said Ms Phillipson.
“I am particularly concerned about the state of local bus services in our region. Over the past six years, thousands of local people have contacted me to express their deep dissatisfaction about the cost of fares and the level of service being provided by private bus companies.
“That’s why I asked the Transport Minister to approve House of Lords amendments to the Buses Bill, which will allow transport authorities like Nexus to introduce franchising of bus services and put passengers ahead of profits.
“This debate was not about asking for special treatment for the North East. Big ticket projects such as HS2 demonstrate that significant money is available from Whitehall for transport projects.
“Yet despite the soaring rhetoric of the government’s so-called Northern Powerhouse initiative, just £573million was spent on transport across the whole north east last year. When you compare that figure to the £27-£32billion that has been earmarked for Crossrail 2 in London alone, it’s clear our region is getting a raw deal.
“This is deeply unfair. If the Government is as serious about rebalancing the UK economy away from London as it claims, ministers need to act now and give the North East the funding it needs.”