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On Tuesday, transport minister Philip Hammond confirmed funding for 24 road and public transport schemes around England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own transport budgets). Mapping these suggests that the coalition government is trying to build bridges in the north – literally, if you include the Mersey Gateway Bridge between Runcorn and Widnes – with two-thirds of the projects in an area roughly bounded by Mansfield, Liverpool, Lancaster and Leeds.

The projects include 14 major road schemes (in red on the map), most of which involve squeezing more capacity out of existing motorways through use of variable speed limits and hard shoulder running (for more, see this Kable.co.uk article). Such schemes need lots of expensive hardware, including surveillance and speed cameras, illuminated speed limit signs on gantries and cabling to connect and power it all, but that is still much cheaper financially and environmentally than new lanes or roads.

The apparent northern bias may be explained by the fact that what is technically known as active traffic management is already in use on several sections of the M25 around London and the 'Birmingham box' of motorways. Hammond confirmed new schemes on the M60 west of Manchester, on two sections of the cross-Pennine M62 and on three sections of the M1 in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. He also green-lighted extensions for two sections of the M25 and for much of the M6 in northern Birmingham.

The north has also been favoured in the government's choice of local transport schemes with six of the 10 local transport schemes (in yellow on the map) – although the list did not include rail, where the government looks set to focus its spending in London. The other four are in Taunton, Exeter, Ipswich and the West Midlands, which will get an extension to its Metro tram system.

The transport department says regional distribution was not a factor in its decisions, with each project considered on its merits. And it's true that if the coalition was trying to woo the north, it has delivered for its more populous southerly section while forgetting Labour's north east heartland.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
             
 
             
 
             
 
 
 
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