Northern cities’ transport networks lag behind European equivalents

Major cities across the North of England are lagging behind their European counterparts in providing access to quality public transport networks, costing the Northern economy more than £16bn in lost productivity, finds research from Centre for Cities.

The data shows more than 4 million people living in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle are unable to travel to their city centres via public transport within 30 minutes, restricting them from employment and education opportunities.

Compared to similar-sized cities in Western Europe, including Hamburg, Marseille, Bilbao, Turin and Lille, the research shows just 35% of residents in Northern cities are well connected to their centres on average, while nearly 70% are in their European equivalents.

Centre for Cities concluded that much of this disparity can be attributed to the differences in population density among these cities, with the European cities having more people living in well-connected mid-rise suburbs closer to the city centre, whereas the Northern cities are more spread out, with millions living in low-rise car-dependent districts.

More people living around public transport stops in European cities means their systems are more viable than the UK, where planning rules make it ‘almost impossible’ to build homes in well-connected suburbs, argues Centre for Cities.

Centre for Cities Chief Executive Andrew Carter said: ‘Last month the Government outlined its ambition to create a ‘global city’ in every part of the UK by 2030, yet our research shows that major cities across the North are lagging far behind their European counterparts in terms of connectivity and providing thriving public transport networks.

‘Our reliance on car-dependent low-rise suburbs is keeping local transport revenues down and costing the country billions of pounds in lost productivity – money that could otherwise be spent on building successful London-style transport systems in city regions across the North.

‘If we want these cities to reach their global potential, we need to see more passengers living close to quality public transport links. Attempts to fix this problem by investing in transport infrastructure will fail unless substantial planning reforms are made to build new midrise neighbourhoods closer to city centres.’

To improve public transport in our Northern cites, Centre for Cities advises that the government should:

  • Continue to invest in new transport infrastructure in city regions
  • Give all combined authorities powers over local bus franchises to set and control bus fares, frequencies and timetables, and specify bus networks
  • Reform the planning system to make it easier to build mid-rise new neighbourhoods in well-connected suburbs
  • Encourage councils to release small areas of greenbelt land around stations for development and implement Local Development Orders

Photo by Tak-Kei Wong


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