Comment: ‘Why does Britain find it so much easier to build transport between cities than within them?

City Metric 13th February 2018  “We know that, by European standards at least, most British cities have pretty poor public transport. We have good reasons for suspecting, at least, that this might be one reason why our big cities under-perform many of their continental peers. And there’s evidence, too, that – if the point of investing in public transport is to improve city economies – you’re better off improving links within cities than between them.

I’ve written about that before, but the basic argument is pretty intuitive. The reason poor transport is an economic problem is that it makes it difficult to get people from houses in the suburbs to jobs in the centre. Making it slightly easier to get from one city centre to another is a fat lot of use if people can’t get there in the first place. And yet, time and time again, this latter is the problem that Britain’s Department for Transport seems most concerned with solving.

But there’s more. A full-scale Leeds Metro network would serve, even in the most generous interpretations, a population of around 1m people. Building one, then, would mean spending an awful large chunk of the transport budget on a tiny share of the population. … If the government were to pour significant cash into a full-scale metro network for Leeds, it is, let’s be charitable,unlikely that this would be received in Liverpool and Newcastle and Sheffield as a welcome investment in the wider north. Not unreasonably, residents of those cities would instead treat it as nothing much to do with them, and instead demand their own. Budgets being what they are, government is unlikely to deliver. So that shiny new Leeds Metro just annoyed far more people than it pleased.”

Read more here. And see also Jonn Elledge’s August 2017 article: Is Crossrail for the North really the biggest priority for the north?