LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s upcoming budget will invest almost GBP7 billion on transport outside London, the Treasury said yesterday, as part of plans to cut economic inequality.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will unveil the transport initiative during his autumn budget and spending review due on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s so-called “levelling up” programme is seen as vital to keeping voters in former strongholds of the main opposition Labour party who backed him in the 2019 general election.
His Conservative party won a swathe of seats in northern England on a promise to deliver Britain’s Brexit divorce from the European Union (EU), as well as boost jobs and growth.
Recipients of the transport project cash include regions in the former Labour “red wall” that turned Tory blue two years ago and will be seen as payback for their support.
According to the Finance Ministry, the government will invest GBP5.7 billion in city regions to boost productivity via train and station upgrades, and tram network expansion.
It will also inject GBP1.2 billion into overhauling bus services.
The government wants to quicken journey times, simplify fares and increase services outside London, after repeated complaints that regions outside the British capital were ill-served by transport links, affecting business.
“Great cities need great transport and that is why we’re investing billions to improve connections in our city regions as we level up opportunities across the country,” said Sunak in the statement.
“This transport revolution will help redress that imbalance as we modernise our local transport networks so they are fit for our great cities and those people who live and work in them.”
Transport policy is set separately in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the nations’ devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
The government said the extra investment for England would mean additional cash for the three other United Kingdom (UK) nations under weighted public expenditure adjustments.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak will also announce the latest growth forecasts for the economy, which is battling high inflation due largely to surging energy prices and a supply chain crisis that was sparked by Brexit and COVID.