UK cities 'need sustained transport investment'

Significant, sustained investment is needed to bring the transport links in British cities up to the standards already enjoyed by European and North American competitors, according to four experts in transport finance.

Writing in the September issue of Public Money & Management, the authors of 'Connecting for competitiveness: future transport in UK city regions' draw attention to the wide disparity between the annual transport investment in Austrian and German cities and those in the UK.

Vienna tops the poll, in public transport infrastructure investment, receiving €464m a year. Munich receives €221m, while Manchester gets €32m and Glasgow only €23m. Germany has 56 light rail transit systems with 2768km of track while the UK has a mere seven systems covering only 156 km of track.

The writers make a series of recommendations:
> Sustained investment in key fixed transport links;
> A mix of investment schemes from trams and metros down to smaller projects such as relieving key bottlenecks;
> Effective and efficient government structures for planning and implementation;
> New methods of funding the required transport improvements, such as sales and payroll taxes to provide suitable revenue streams and to guarantee borrowing.

Iain Docherty, professor of public policy and governance at Glasgow University and one of the report's authors, said: "Transport investment in itself cannot guarantee economic success but it is difficult to build sustainable growth without it. British cities can match the best in Europe and all that is required is the political will to grasp the opportunity".

The article is based on research funded by Grant Thornton LLP.

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