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Think tank calls on government to build HS3 before HS2

Construction of the HS3 rail line in the North of England should take priority over High Speed 2, an influential think tank has urged.

The Institute for Public Policy Research called on new transport secretary Chris Grayling to adopt a “North first” agenda on infrastructure spending to close the funding gap between the North and London.

Research showed the North will receive six times less funding per person for infrastructure projects compared with London.

On average, infrastructure spending per person between 2016 and 2020 will be £1,869 in London, compared with £277 across the North.

The study also found that the £4.6bn to be spent on completing Crossrail during 2016-21 will exceed spending on all transport projects in the North (£4.3bn).

The IPPR said the funding discrepancies needed to be addressed, with the North taking control of its own funding decisions to ensure the money was spent where it was most needed.

It also called on the government to make the most of record low interest rates to create a £50bn “catch-up cash fund” that could be invested in northern road and rail priorities.

The IPPR joins a growing list of groups calling for extra borrowing for infrastructure investment.

Last month a report from the UK’s biggest contractor Balfour Beatty said the post-Brexit climate was the ideal time for the government to borrow money to ensure major infrastructure projects were not delayed or scrapped.

Director of IPPR North Ed Cox said: “To build Theresa May’s ‘Better Britain’, we must focus on a better North.

“The North of England’s £300bn economy is worth more than those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

“Focusing on this is going to be critical in creating the prosperity our country is going to need over the coming years.

“The North must also take control of its own funding decisions.

“The evidence shows that this would help boost growth, ditching the Treasury’s outdated and ineffective model, better suited to mitigating congestion than driving new economic growth.”

IPPR director Tom Kibasi added: “Given the Brexit result, the North of England must urgently see growing prosperity.

“A proper east-west crossing would boost northern and UK growth, and must now take priority above all other major transport projects, including Crossrail 2 and HS2.”

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