We turn our attention to transport policy for the third in our series offering new Secretaries of State some handy summer reading. Here we examine where it doesn’t work for people cities and what can be done to fix it.
1. Don’t overestimate the economic benefits of connecting cities together
The prevailing transport debate in recent years has been about connecting cities together, either nationally or internationally: HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, a third runway at Heathrow. To an extent this is understandable, major cross-country infrastructure projects create jobs and few politicians can resist the allure of a hard hat and high-vis jacket photo opportunity.
But while it is important to ensure the country is well connected, the new Secretary of State should be wary of treating these projects as the golden answer to growing the economy, particularly outside London and the South East.
Most economic activity takes place within cities, which collectively account for around 60% of jobs and GVA, but very few people actually commute between cities for work. In fact, over 80% of commuters into the centres of England’s major cities live within the same city. In some large cities such as Liverpool it is as high as 91%.
So while ensuring connections between cities is important, the new Transport Secretary should also remember vital commuter links, not just in London but in Britain’s other major cities.
On a practical level this means assessing which cites are most in need of new infrastructure and infrastructure investment and we have a major new report out dealing with this subject next month.
The Prime Minister, a former mayor, has already indicated his awareness of the importance of intra-city connections so we are hopeful for action.