11 Mar 2020

So the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, promised that his Budget would deliver historic investment in roads, railways and other infrastructure schemes, as the Government looked to "level up" the UK. But using his own political pantomime cry, did the Chancellor ensure that this Budget "gets it done" for transport initiatives here in the North East?

Well, on the one hand, there is a clear commitment to boosting regional connectivity on the roads with the dualling of the A66 TransPennine route and consideration being given as to how the A1 and A19 north of Newcastle can be improved to speed up journeys and boost economic growth. The Budget also allocates £198 million to the North East from the Transforming Cities Fund (including £95 million for frequency and reliability improvements across the Tyne and Wear Metro and other shovel-ready transport schemes). And the icing on the cake (well, for some of us in the North of the region) is the promise of further substantial investment in the Tyne and Wear transport network through a Mayoral intra-city transport settlement (which could have the potential to really kick-start the re-introduction of the Ashington Blyth and Tyne line).

But, as ever, the "devil is always in the detail" and this Budget is no different, particularly when noting that a separate publication, the landmark National Infrastructure Strategy that is due to be published later in the Spring, is the document that will really set out the plans for the "once in a generation transformation of the UK's economic infrastructure". So not much mention of Northern Powerhouse Rail or improvements to local rail infrastructure. And although the Government has made a number of commitments to incentivising cleaner forms of transport (such as further investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles), the fact that fuel duty remains frozen for a tenth year in a row does nothing to help push motorists out of their cars and onto public transport here in the North East.