The bidding race is set to commence for city regions across the UK as the prime minister announced £840m of government cash would be made available to upgrade transport links.
The shortlist of ten city regions marks the next stage of the £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund which under the government’s modern Industrial Strategy is supporting cities to make it easier, safer and quicker for people to travel and get to work by funding improved transport connections.
Local authorities in Derby & Nottingham, Leicester City, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire will bid for a share of the funding.
Theresa May says the funding would help “spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs” with money available for the implementation of new bus routes, smart technology aimed at reducing congestion or docking stations for e-bikes over a four-year period.
Commenting on the funding up for grabs, prime minister Theresa May said: “Our great cities and their suburbs are home to millions of people and world-beating businesses. We want to help them succeed, so as part of our modern Industrial Strategy we will fund £840m of upgrades for better, safer, faster transport links. These improvements to vital infrastructure will help spread growth beyond London and empower local businesses to create more, better-paying jobs – opening up more opportunities to help people get on in life and be rewarded for their hard work.
The ten shortlisted city regions will each receive an initial £50,000 as well as support from Government to co-develop the strongest cases for investment. Once finalised, ministers will consider the relative strength of each bid and their impact on “improving connectivity, supporting employment and driving up productivity”.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling added: “Good bus, cycle and tram routes play a huge role in increasing the vitality and vibrancy of cities. These 10 areas now have the chance to transform their transport systems – making it easier for people to get around and enhance links to work, school or shops.”
While the city regions finalise proposals, £60m from the fund will be made available over the next year to share across transport schemes aimed at tackling challenges faced by communities.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has responded to the funding by urging ministers to go further by devolving even more powers and funding to local leaders. Sir John Armitt, chairman of the NIC, has welcomed the news but believes more devolved powers and funding would enable cities to plan their transport investment for the longer term.
The first ever National Infrastructure Assessment recently published by the NIC highlighted how local leaders in cities need an extra £43bn of investment by 2040 with the commission’s work showing it was clearly affordable within the fiscal remit provided by government.
“I’m pleased to see 10 city regions across the country benefiting from this funding boost, recognising that the need to tackle congestion makes cities a top infrastructure priority,” Armitt said. “The Transforming Cities Fund has been a great first step, and I would now urge Ministers to go further and devolve even greater powers and funding to local leaders. That will enable them to devise longer term plans for transport, but also to boost employment opportunities and deliver much needed homes.”