A population-based approach taken by the National Infrastructure Commission “heralds a serious rebalancing of rail expenditure away from London and the South East”, according to think tank Greengauge 21
In its Setting Regional Budgets for Rail Investment report, Greengauge 21 concludes that the shift “helps achieve a move away from allocating transport budgets to places where congestion (and so project benefits) is highest, which in the past in practice has meant, for the rail sector, investment in and around London”.
However, while it argues that such an approach is fairer, it “remains poor at addressing the emerging biggest challenge the transport sector now faces, decarbonisation, because of the uneven coverage of electrified railways across the nation”.
Despite the new approach, Greengauge 21 found that while the South East and Wales account for 56% of the population against 44% for the North and Midlands, the former would receive only a £25 billion rail enhancement over the next 25 years. This compares with £86.2bn for the latter, which the NIC has suggested could increase to £107.8bn.
The reason for the difference, according to Greengauge 21, is that the NIC has included the costs of already-planned projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Published in June, the Greengauge 21 report argues that south-west England and Wales deserve a £25% budget uplift “to overcome the weaknesses of unimproved networks and reliance on diesel-powered trains”.
It adds; “The Government’s levelling up agenda must have a Wales and West component, as well as Midlands and North.”
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