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Transport projects should 'harness potential of the North' says think tank

Transport infrastructure projects should "harness the potential of the North" rather than "just reacting to congestion" in the South East, a think tank has claimed.

IPPR North responded to the announcement that a new multibillion tunnel is to be built beneath the River Thames linking Kent and Essex by saying that £1,500 more per person is spent on transport schemes in London than northern England.

The new bridge is estimated to cost between £4.3 billion and £5.9 billion, while the capital's new east-west rail line, Crossrail, has a £14.8 billion budget.

IPPR North senior research fellow Luke Raikes said the North is up to twice as dependent on EU trade than London, meaning "it needs investment now more than ever" following the Brexit vote.

He told the Press Association: "London is set to receive more than half the country's public and public-private funded transport infrastructure - £1,500 more per person than the North.

"The Government's industrial strategy should use infrastructure, alongside other interventions, to harness the potential of the North, instead of just reacting to congestion in London and the South East.

"Investing in the east-west transport connectivity in the North would also go a long way toward rebalancing the economy, and could help relieve some of the pressures on London."

But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling insisted that work in the North such as the Ordsall Chord project to link stations in Manchester city centre is part of "a really extensive improvement on a scale that simply hasn't been seen for a very long time".

The new tunnel, which will be one of the longest in the UK at two miles, was given the go-ahead in a bid to ease congestion on the existing Dartford Crossing, which is used for 50 million journeys each year and is frequently congested.

Asked if he was concerned about the imbalance in regional transport spending figures, Mr Grayling replied that the Dartford Crossing is "strategically important for the whole country".

He went on: "The trade that comes from the North West and the North East, down through the Channel Tunnel to the markets on the Continent, comes across this crossing.

"This isn't a London project, it's a UK project."

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