Major cities across the North are lagging behind their European counterparts in providing access to quality public transport networks, costing the Northern economy more than £16bn in lost productivity, research from Centre for Cities has found.
Data published today (Tuesday 22 March) shows more than 4 million people living in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, and Newcastle are unable to travel to their city centres via public transport within 30 minutes, restricting them from employment and education opportunities.
Compared to similar-sized cities in Western Europe, including Hamburg, Marseille, Bilbao, Turin and Lille, the research shows just 35 per cent of residents in Northern cities are well connected to their centres on average, while nearly seven in ten are in their European equivalents.
Much of this disparity can be attributed to the differences in population density among these cities. The European cities have more people living in well-connected mid-rise suburbs closer to the city centre, whereas the Northern cities are more spread out, with millions living in low-rise car-dependent districts.
More people living around public transport stops in European cities means their systems are more viable than the UK, where planning rules make it almost impossible to build homes in well-connected suburbs.
“Last month the Government outlined its ambition to create a ‘global city’ in every part of the UK by 2030, yet our research shows that major cities across the North are lagging far behind their European counterparts in terms of connectivity and providing thriving public transport networks.
“Our reliance on car-dependent low-rise suburbs is keeping local transport revenues down and costing the country billions of pounds in lost productivity – money that could otherwise be spent on building successful London-style transport systems in city regions across the North.
“If we want these cities to reach their global potential, we need to see more passengers living close to quality public transport links. Attempts to fix this problem by investing in transport infrastructure will fail unless substantial planning reforms are made to build new midrise neighbourhoods closer to city centres.”
A roundup of the cost to the economy in each Northern city studied can be found below:
|City||Productivity gap, due to weak public transport accessibility|
|Combined lost productivity||£16.6 billion|
Source: Traveltime; ONS; Eurostat; Centre for Cities’ calculations. Estimates based on PUA boundaries, which may be affecting the analysis by including some towns that will be unlikely to be connected by new public transport.