Failure to invest in transport in the Midlands and north of England is holding back the economy, the chair of the influential Transport Select Committee has warned.
Ministers were urged to “rebalance” transport spending and stop pouring money into London and the south east.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Louise Ellman, chair of the Commons Transport Committee, said: “That imbalance is a matter of concern”.
She was speaking after the committee published a hard-hitting report which urged the Government to publish detailed figures every year making it clear exactly how much was being spent in each part of the country.
A recent study by the Passenger Transport Executive Group, which represents transport authorities including Centro, the West Midlands body, warned the West Midlands is the victim of a funding gap with the Government spending £242 on transport for every resident in the region while £774 per head is spent in London.
But Transport Minister Norman Baker disputed the claims, pointing out that the Government had announced a series of transport improvements in the Midlands and North in December.
Leading a Commons debate, Ms Ellman said: “It is important to recognise that congestion on the road, rail and air networks remains a major constraint on connectivity and growth. There is clear evidence that relieving congestion by providing new capacity helps to increase productivity and promotes economic development.
“It is also important to note that congestion is not the only indication of the need for transport investment, particularly where regeneration is required and disparities are evident.”
Highlighting a series of studies into how transport spending is distributed, she said: “The Passenger Transport Executive Group has produced similar information showing that transport spending is more than twice as much per head in London and the south-east than it is in Yorkshire and Humberside, the West Midlands and the North-East. That imbalance is a matter of concern.”
But Mr Baker told her: “Of all the transport investment announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and in the 14 December announcement about local major schemes, 62 per cent by value is in the North and the Midlands and 35 per cent is in the north alone.
“Similarly, of the strategic highway investments announced in the 2010 spending review, 63 per cent by value is in the North and Midlands and 40 per cent is in the North alone.
“The spend in the Autumn Statement for the local authority majors totals over £3 billion of regional spending, of which 35 per cent is in the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber, 27 per cent is in the West and East Midlands, and only 24 per cent is in London and the South East.”
The Department for Transport announced approval for schemes costing £854 million in December, with funding of £586 million coming directly from the department.
They included widening of the A452 Chester Road in Birmingham to a three lane dual carriageway, at a total cost of £10.5 million; upgrading the Coventry to Nuneaton rail line, including two new stations, at a total cost of £18.8 million; a series of road improvements around Darlaston, Walsall, at a total cost of £25.9 million, and a package of transport improvements in and around Worcester, including enhancements to Foregate Street and Malvern Link stations, at a total cost of £19.6 million.
Norman Baker also recently announced that the construction of a £128 million extension to the Midland Metro, from Birmingham’s Snow Hill Station through the city centre to New Street Station, can go ahead.
Major schemes in London and the south east include the £15 billion Crossrail project and £6 billion upgrade to Thameslink.
Speaking in the same debate, Staffordshire MP Karen Bradley (Con Staffordshire Moorlands) called for more support for rural constituencies such as hers.