Devolution and transport investment in the UK: Increasing asymmetries? Geoff Vigar GURU Newcastle University G.I.Vigar@ncl.ac.uk
Departure points • Why transport? • Significance in economic, ecological, social and cultural terms • Financially, transfers of rail franchising to Scotland and London ‘biggest single acts of devolution’ (MacKinnon et al 2008) • Hypothesis: England beyond the South East is disadvantaged through: • asymmetrical patterns of devolution and • state selectivity in investment
Sub-national ‘filling-in’ processes • Much activity ‘filling-in’ sub-national scales: • meta regions in England: Northern Way etc. • regions in Scotland, Wales and England thru regional transport strategy-making and some new authorities • city-regions in Scotland, Wales and England (an aping of the London story?): limited power anywhere. NB Local Transport Act ’08 in England • All somewhat characterised till now on their weakness in determining both priorities, policy and investment; and capacity to spend.
Policy divergence and convergence • Limited nature of devolved powers has led to large interest in transport in these areas • All areas invested well above inflation in transport since a low in 2000, Scotland especially but Wales less than England (2007 CSR in England somewhat reverses this) • But UK transport investment around 0.6% of GDP recently (>0.8% for each of years 1989-95) • Difference has emerged in what money has gone toward: • All 4 devolved spaces have invested in new rail infrastructure beyond the mainstream English experience • London has uniquely delivered on road user charging and bus investment • Scotland led on concessionary fares to be followed by others
Story two: asymmetry in England? • Broadly London has pursued its own policy trajectory (in line with UK policy of late 90s): it has uniquely delivered on the UK policy rhetoric • How and why has it done this? • Privileged investment flows • Demands arising from ltd devolution- no tax raising powers led to congestion charge?; similar drivers have pushed Scottish rail investment
UK transport strategy • 1998 white paper radical wrt demand management • 2000 Ten year plan / 2004 white paper shows retrenchment to ‘pragmatic multi-modalism’ • 10 year plan headlines were investment of £60bn each to rail, road and ‘local’ • This seems even handed but • rail travel is overwhelmingly concentrated in SE England: London accounts for 48% and S-E 12% of 1.2bn annual journey departures • Rail spend actually 35-45% of spending in 2000s
Rail investment 2000-2014 • Since 2000: big 3 investments have a London connection • CTRL: £5.8bn • West coast upgrade: £7.6bn • South of Thames power upgrade: £2bn (inc new rolling stock) • Network Rail has £26.7bn for period 2009-14 [£4.4bn of which is [was?!] to come from financial markets: • Completion of Thameslink (£5.5bn) • CrossRail (£16bn to completion) [£3bn from private sector] • 1300 new carriages nationwide • Station capacity increases “focused on London (which has the worst crowding) and on cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester (which have seen the fastest growth in rail demand)” para 3.18 DfT 2007. Reading also to be expanded • ‘Flagship intercity services’ (new trains!) on east coast and great western lines by 2015 • HC Transport Committee calls this “tinkering”
Light/ urban rail • London Underground subsidy (from UK taxes) £1.4bn p.a. 2004-09 (mostly capital expansion) for 1bn annual journeys; subsidy to 7 PTEs £0.4bnp.a. for 0.16bn journeys • Jubilee Line extension largest single UK urban rail project; DLR and Croydon Tram; East London Line (“the lowest of the SRA’s priorities”); creation of London Overground: Elsewhere • Edinburgh, Nottingham, Tyne and Wear funded, Portsmouth, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool denied
Buses (Knowles & Abrantes 2008) Support for buses increased in London by >5000% between 1996/7 & 2006/07; 21% in PTE areas; London consumes 63% of English bus subsidy: • “such a level of subsidy…is not untypical of that found in Europe…but very much higher than in the rest of Britain”(White, 2008: 192) Fares increased above inflation everywhere, lowest in London & Scotland; highest in Wales & PTE areas London’s ridership increased nearly 50% in this time compared with a decline in most areas
Road investment • Roads are of greater significance in travel terms in R-O-E than L-SE • Traffic increased 1% in London 1996-2006; 15% in England as a whole • Spend has fallen since mid ‘90s and in longer-term since ‘completion’ of motorway network • 30% of roads spend goes to L-SE (the largest share to London)
Air travel • Most spend is private investment • Devolved territories have used ‘Regional Development Funds’ to subsidise services • London airports have largest expansion plans: centralising effects? • Generous aviation tax regime disproportionately advantages L-SE (65% of pax; 80% of freight).
BA is no longer 'British' AirwaysSimon Calder The Independent, 28/10/08 • “British Airways has stopped being the UK's national carrier and effectively become London Airways. The airline still operates flights from Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. But, as with the colour options for Henry Ford's Model T, passengers' choice of destination from these cities is limited: they can fly to any other city they like – so long as it is London.”
To summarise! • A proportional decline in roads spending has a justification but perpetuates uneven development • Urban transport spending has become more skewed toward London • Rail spend is high as a proportion of transport spend and benefits L-SE disproportionately • Aviation policies also disproportionately benefit L-SE? • London allowed to plan on 5, not 3, year cycle
A tentative analysis • Transport investment is skewed toward London (and to a lesser extent the S-E). Scotland has to a degree chosen to invest in this sector above others • State selectivity is at work, supporting a view of London (The City?) as ‘engine’, as ‘golden goose’ (Massey 2007): and that congestion/ growth demands in L-SE require ‘special measures’ (Massey 2007): CrossRail as manifestation of this? • Transport investment to stimulate demand is possible; similarly congestion costs can drive relocation of some economic activity
Conclusions • London has experienced a ‘step change’ (Rye 2008) in transport conditions because of: • Genuine authority granted to it thru devolution alongside a grasping fo the nettle by the GLA, TfL and the Mayor who ‘walked through the door’ opened by devolution • Previous authority gained by not deregulating transport fully in the 1980s has meant that money be more easily deployed (and with greater effects in London?) • The existence of the Mayor has given London voice to lobby for cash and develop policy in ways not available to other places. • Over and above these issues: London is significantly advantaged by investment flows from the Centre: a deliberate state strategy? • Beyond London, English experience characterised by institutional change but little change in experience of networks • More qualitatively, transport beyond London retains a high level of centralisation, perpetuating colonial relations, and restricting the development of governance capacity locally • And should bear in mind that a progressive transport policy should be concerned with social as well as geographical equity: transport spending tends to benefit the hypermobile unless targeted: implies intra-urban transport, not runways and CrossRail?