The government has today announced that it will release £1.7bn of extra transport funding for cities ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.
Prime minister Theresa May made the announcement, which includes £250m specifically for the West Midlands region.
The Transforming Cities Fund is part of the Conservative Party’s Industrial Strategy, with record increases in investment announced for research and development across the UK.
May committed to an increase in spending to £2.3bn by 2021-22 as the government aims to push total public and private expenditure in the sector to as much as £80bn over the next 10 years.
“This is a new long-term approach to shaping a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come,” the prime minister wrote in The Times today.
“It helps young people to develop the skills they need to take up the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.
“Our Industrial Strategy will propel Britain to global leadership of the industries of the future, seizing the big opportunities of our time – from Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to clean energy and self-driving vehicles.”
Next Monday, the launch of the Industrial Strategy White Paper will announce four ‘Grand Challenges’ that reflect global trends expected to shape our future, and industries where the UK has an edge. These are artificial intelligence and the data economy, clean growth, healthy ageing, and the future of mobility.
The plan is for the government to work with academics, as well as private and public institutions, to build on the perceived advantages the country has in order to stay ahead of competitors.
Public transport is a central tenet of the new proposals, with new links an important part of improving areas and attracting businesses.
Chris Grayling, transport secretary said: “Investment in transport is crucial to a strong and resilient economy. The Transforming Cities Fund will drive productivity and growth in cities where this is most needed, connecting communities and making it quicker and easier for people to get around.
“We have already seen the impact of better integrated transport links for both passengers and the local economy in cities like Nottingham and Manchester. This new fund will enable more English cities to reap these benefits, helping to deliver the opportunities and ambition of the Industrial Strategy across the country, as well as driving forward the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.”
Over the past few months, Northern leaders criticised the government for a lack of transport funding in their regions, leading the chancellor, Philip Hammond, to announce £400m in spending on local transport schemes.
Hammond said that a lack of infrastructure funding was a “barrier to progress” adding that major funding pots focusing on projects both nationally and in specific areas were a method of driving countrywide growth.
Responding to today’s announcement, Jonathan Bray, director of the Urban Transport Group (UTG), said that transport was essentially to improving growth in communities.
“Although we await details on how this new fund will work, we welcome the focus of this funding announcement on the importance of investing in transport in cities and city regions,” he said.
“Our urban economies are crucial to the success of the wider UK economy and if our urban economies are to grow in an inclusive and sustainable way then those economies need to be underpinned by modern and efficient transport networks.”