How to solve regional imbalances?by Jay Elwes / August 15, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
Big projects invite big political talk. The “Northern Powerhouse” is no exception. An idea invented by George Osborne, it was a project born of the fifty thousand feet perspective of No 11 Downing Street. You can almost imagine the former Chancellor pointing at his map of the UK: “we’ve got lots of economic activity here,” points to central London, “but we need to move some of it up here,” points to Barrow-in-Furness.
But does it really work like that? That’s a question that goes ignored by the politicians who promote the idea of “rebalancing” Britain. All countries have regional imbalances and it’s not immediately clear whether any other country has succeeded in getting rid of them by laying new railway lines. France, for example, has got stupendously fast trains and has had them for decades. But it hasn’t stopped huge swathes of la France profondefrom becoming backwaters. Italy, the United States—in fact think of any country and you’ll find it infested with regional imbalances. Why should Britain be able to find a solution that has eluded all other nations?
And yet government is spending a huge pile of money on new infrastructure, the bulk of it, as is made clear above, on transport. It’s no doubt a crucial question, as our special supplement shows. Commuters certainly like new trains.
But they also hate it when trains go awry, as happened with the failed introduction of new timetables across the north. That bungled effort doesn’t bode well for…