On 23 November 2016, Bridget Phillipson, Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, held a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament to press for a fairer funding deal for transport in the north east.
Bridget opened the well-attended debate by emphasizing the large discrepancy in investment funding from central government for transport in the region.
Government figures show that central spending on transport in the region has dropped by almost 20% over the last decade, with the result that the north east accounted for only 2.8% of overall UK spend last year. This means that while London receives £1,900 a head of population for transport projects, the north east only receives £300.
With almost one in three people in Houghton and Sunderland South entirely reliant on local bus services to get around, Bridget called upon the government to accept House of Lords amendments to the Bus Services Bill that will allow non-mayoral transport authorities such as Nexus in the north east to introduce London-style franchising of bus services. This would enable Nexus to integrate fares and routes so that taxpayer subsidies for buses are used to improve services instead of to increase operating profits.
She also pressed the government to allocate Nexus the funding necessary to upgrade the Tyne and Wear Metro, which has suffered from growing reliability and performance issues in recent months due to its ageing fleet, and to extend Metro-style services across Wearside, including to Doxford International Business Park, and to other parts of the north east.
Responding for the government, Andrew Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, made no specific comment on the House of Lords amendments to the Bus Services Bill, raising hopes that transport authorities like Nexus will be allowed to apply for bus franchising powers from the Transport Secretary.
However, the minister refused to indicate when his Department would make a decision on the business case put forward by Nexus for the expansion and extension of the Metro, even though Nexus needs an urgent decision if it is to meet its investment targets.
Speaking after the debate, Bridget Phillipson MP said:
“I was delighted that 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.
“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 accept 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-£32 billion 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.”
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NOTES TO EDITOR
 To read a transcript of the debate, click here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-11-23/debates/8FA6A85F-6A0F-4359-B8A8-98EE4F777C12/TransportNorth-East
To watch the debate, click here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/8e5dbcce-f5a1-478a-9b96-199bd2dd4db1?in=16:26:07&out=17:29:57
 Source: HM Treasury statistics on transport spending by region: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CDP-2016-0216
 Source: Department for Transport statistics on household car ownership by region and Rural-Urban Classification: England, 2002/03 and 2014/15: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550726/nts9902.xls
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