Today the Independent online newspaper has published a story with a headline and some of the text that suggests that those of us in the South are enjoying an excessive level of expenditure on our transport infrastructure when compared to our Northern cousins. This is being published on the first day of a 5 day strike by workers at the Southern Rail franchise, a business which feels as though it is close to collapse. As a result of the inability of Southern and their workers to resolve their differences the South East region (4th bar from the left) feels as though its transport system is in a total mess. However putting that to one side, the article by Adam Withnall which is based on a piece from the IPPR by Ed Cox is presenting some rather confusing information and appears to be drawing lazy conclusions from the data. According to this graph which is in the paper but which I have annotated there are 10 English Regions when historically there have only been 9, the one in the centre called the North presumably represents the Northern Powerhouse which features in the article. It is not clear which area that covers, but never mind.
The idea of a North South Divide is not new, but the fact is that the transport expenditure in London is 5 times the spend of the next region on the graph in terms of spend and is nearly 10 times the spend in the East Midlands. To suggest that spending money on infrastructure in London benefits people in parts of East Sussex miles from the nearest railway station, bus stop or piece of dual carriageway, let alone parts of Cornwall or Somerset is as fanciful as suggesting that Berwick on Tweed benefits from spending in Durham, or Cockermouth benefits from investment in Preston or Bury. We do need a debate about transport, just as we do about other pieces of nationally funded infrastructure, and coming from Merseyside I am fully aware of how residents in the North West view the South East. However publishing articles like this do a disservice to the Independent newspaper, let alone to the truth. There are huge inequalities in our nation, but creating or at least perpetuating a false analysis like this does not help reduce them. There are also many intra-regional inequalities which need to be addressed and setting one region, or group of regions against another will not address those.