Plymouth is behind the rest of the UK in transport investment
PLYMOUTH is lagging behind most of England when it comes to government spending on transport, say city MPs.
The Government spent an average of £315 a head on transport across the UK in 2011/2012.
But in the South West spending was a paltry £184 a person.
Spending on rail transport was equally uneven, with the average in the South West at just £40, substantially lower than the national average of £119.
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"We are the poor relation," Oliver Colvile, the MP for Sutton and Devonport, said yesterday after meeting the Transport Secretary in London.
Mr Colvile led a city delegation to see Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State.
Alison Seabeck, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, went armed with statistics on government spending which showed the disparity between the South West and the rest of the country.
"You can't have the 15th largest city in the country having the lowest investment in transport," she said. Rail infrastructure had to be made "more resilient" in the wake of this month's floods.
Ms Seabeck said figures provided by the Department for Transport showed that average spending on transport in the North West was £279 a head – £95 more than in the South West.
Mr Colvile said the delegation pressed the case for improved rail services to Plymouth and the rest of the peninsula.
In particular, he said there was an urgent need to have more three-hour trains between London and Plymouth, and trains arriving earlier in the morning. He said the Secretary of State had promised to visit Plymouth next year.
"We are the poor relation. What has happened is that over the years money has not been spent in the South West.
"For 13 years we had a Labour government and although I am sure our MPs worked hard to get investment, it did not happen.
"There has to be pressure on civil servants. I suspect there has not been enough pressure on ministers to deliver improvements to our transport infrastructure.
"We need to have more money spent on improving the A38, dualling the A303 and improving the railways. If we are going to play our part in the Government's growth agenda this is an important issue."
He said Plymouth's prosperity helped the whole of the far South West. Mr Colvile has asked for a parliamentary debate on transport infrastructure.
"The recent bad weather has highlighted how vulnerable we are. I am keen that we should rebalance our economy. Part of that is making sure we have decent transport links so that people can come and invest in the global leader in marine science research."
Ms Seabeck said: "We find it more than a little distressing that ministers of all three main parties have not understood how significant Plymouth is in terms of size and ability to generate money for the economy.
"I find it alarming that Plymouth has been compared to Hastings [the East Sussex resort town of 87,000 people].
"It is little wonder that in severe weather conditions our rail lines are regularly under water and lack resistance, leading to the far South West effectively being cut off from the rest of the region."
Cllr Mark Coker, the city's Cabinet member for transport, was part of the delegation.
He said: "Plymouth has been neglected. When the Secretary of State was shown the figures he said he was very aware of this.
"I really hope this continued pressure means they will actually take notice because it's vitally important.
"The latest government spending has been focused on the North East and the North West and we have missed out yet again."
The Secretary of State is expected to make a statement after the Brown review into the flawed West Coast rail franchise.
The Great Western franchise process has been put on hold because of mistakes made by Department of Transport officials, leaving the city and the region in transport limbo.