New approach to funding could enhance the regions

A report by Greengauge 21 called Setting Budgets for Regional Rail Investment published on 10 July suggests adopting a per capita approach to allocating rail enhancement funding could increase spending in areas hitherto overlooked for major investment.

By following the National Infrastructure Commission’s assessment of a budget to meet the rail needs for Northern England and the Midlands, GG21 projected enhancement spends across the other regions of England and Wales. It found that the overall rail enhancement budget for the South and East of England would be much lower than that for the North and Midlands, so a major rebalancing of regional transport expenditure away from the London area could follow.

In examining the enhancements pipelines for the regions, GG21 concluded that there were few in prospect for London and the South East following extensive investment in projects such as Thameslink and Crossrail over the last 10-15 years. The absence of major projects ahead limits its budget allocation as a result. 

By changing the funding methodology to one based on population, and after allowing for East West Rail and further electrification of the Great Western Main Line, the report allocated £7.1 billion to Eastern England between now and 2045, £5.1 billion to London, £6.7 billion to the South East and £4.3 billion to the South West, with £1.8 billion going to Wales. 

When further electrification and the need for decarbonisation is considered, GG21 says South West England, Wales along with the North and Midlands are regions that need substantial investment. Together these are parts of England & Wales that should be beneficiaries of the Government’s levelling up agenda, it says. The report argues that for South West England and Wales, a budget increase of 25% above baseline (a level which generated a £106bn total for the Midlands and North) would be justifiable.

The report also argues that sub-national transport bodies should have an important and formal advisory role on transport budget allocations, and that budget allocations should be developed for their use.