Anger as North East leaders claim transport cash is being diverted to London and the South East
North East leaders have accused the government of diverting cash earmarked for the region to projects in London and the South East.
Ministers have been slammed over planned budget cuts at Transport for the North (TfN), which helps coordinate major infrastructure projects.
Plans for initiatives such as smart ticketing across networks have been put at risk by the move, with bosses demanding answers on where the money will end up instead.
“We’re coming out of a COVID-19 pandemic, we’re trying to level up transport investment and we know younger people relying on the network are struggling to find jobs in the North East – this is catastrophic news for the North East and a kick in the teeth from the Government,” said Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and a member of TfN’s board.
“The bit that really shocked me was the justification for this cut and where this money is being diverted to.
“It is emerging, and it’s very clear from the Department for Transport (DfT), that this money is going to subsidise significant shortfalls and huge overspends in the first leg of HS2, better connecting London and the South East.”
Cllr Marshall was speaking at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee on January 19, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
He told the panel in November (2020) TfN had been told to expect a budget for the next financial year (2021/22) worth a combined total of £158million.
But at the beginning of January, bosses at the regional transport body were told by the DfT that this would instead be closer to £88million – a 44%t cut.
Northern Powerhouse Rail, one of TfN’s flagship projects, is intended to improve connections between the North East and Yorkshire and HS2.
Cllr Marshall added: “This undermines all the work we’ve been doing in the North East, and the wider north, and the ambitious plans to grow our economy in the North East.
“It’s very clear from my perspective that this report is dangerous to the North East economy and the ambitions of Transport for the North.
“If it is accepted by the government it will be a backwards step for our ambitions to unlock the potential of our economy.”