Boris Johnson’s government must invest in London, says Sadiq Khan’s transport deputy

Boris Johnson’s government must invest in London, says Sadiq Khan’s transport deputy

One of Sadiq Khan’s most senior deputy mayors has challenged the belief that London receives more than its fair share of transport infrastructure public spending and told national government that its approach “can’t be a case of pitting one part of the country against the other” when investment decisions are made.

Heidi Alexander, a former London Labour MP and shadow cabinet member who has been Khan’s deputy mayor for transport since May 2018, made her remarks as the Greater London Authority (GLA) published an 84-page paper making the case for “continuing transport expenditure” in the capital, specifically in relation to investment in improved services and capacity.

The document and Alexander’s comments form a New Year response by Mayor Khan’s City Hall to indications that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government will prioritise other parts of the country following its capture of a string of previously long-held Labour constituencies in parts of the North and Midlands of England at last month’s general election.

“Contrary to popular belief, the Tube network still has some of the oldest trains running anywhere in the country,” Alexander said. “And as anyone who has ever experienced an overcrowded train will tell you, London’s transport network desperately needs more investment”.

Echoing an argument often made by Johnson during his eight years as London Mayor, she also urged ministers to “recognise the wider benefits to the UK economy of investing in London” and warned, “If London is going to continue to succeed, government can’t wash its hands of its responsibilities”.

The GLA paper, compiled by its economics department, challenges widely publicised complaints that the capital enjoys preferential treatment in rail transport investment, says that spending on the city’s roads has been “the lowest in the country”, and underlines that enhancing London’s transport networks assists the national economy with trade and tax revenues.

It says a recent update of a January 2018 report by think tank IPPR North claiming that planned transport investment in London is nearly three times higher per person in London than in the North of England “systematically overstates London’s share of national public transport investment” because it fails to take into account the large numbers of people who live outside Greater London but use its public transport when commuting to and from the capital for work – boosting the city’s daytime population by two million to 10.8 million – and also ignores the network’s use by tourists and other visitors.

GLA paper also says that when expenditure is assessed according the number of rail passenger journeys made in London (rather than by either the number of people living there or its normal daytime population), the capital received less money than almost every other region and nation of England in 2017/18, with the north west, west midlands, south west, Wales, Scotland and, in particular, the north east receiving considerably more. The London figure of £8 per passenger journey compares with nearly £24 in the north east and a Great Britain average of £12 per journey.

London’s low level of car ownership – just 56 per cent of household have access to one – adds to the importance of public transport in the city, but even so London receives the smallest amount of public expenditure of any region or nation on its roads as measured by vehicle miles.

The GLA paper notes that good transport provision in London benefits the rest of the UK as well as the capital because it can help “increase [economic] output and productivity, which raises taxes which can be dispersed across the country and for a range of public services” and that London, the wider south east of England and the rest of the UK “grow together”, with the rest of the UK being “London’s most important trading partner”. The total value of London’s exports is put at £248 billion, of which £158 billion are to elsewhere in the UK, while at the same time it imports £160 billion from the rest of the country compared with £66 billion from the rest of the world.

Trains serving the Piccadilly and Bakerloo London Underground lines were built in the early 1970s and those for the Central, Northern and Jubilee Lines in the early and mid-1990s. Only five of the ten core Underground lines have rolling stock built during this century. A new factory is to be built in Goole, east Yorkshire, to produce new trains for the Piccadilly Line.

Photograph by Omar Jan.

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