Transport infrastructure fastracked in Autumn Statement
By Neil Thorne, Director of Transport
The forecast for transport infrastructure is looking brighter this week following the doom and gloom of economic and investment uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have given the construction and development industry a welcome boost with the Autumn Statement including the new £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund. At the heart of this is Infrastructure investment.
With a more relaxed approach to Government borrowing (and, with no sign of George Osborne’s infamous hard hat adorning the now compulsory MP announcement site visits, to CSCS requirements), the Transport Secretary has now provided more details on the multi-billion-pound ‘roads’ funding package.
As well as the £220m Pinch Point Funding for Highways England, the £1.1bn ‘congestion busting’ Roads Fund for Local Highway Authorities, £175m towards road safety schemes, the £2.3bn housing infrastructure fund to help deliver 100,000 homes, and £27m to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, the Autumn Statement also included £450m for digital signalling on railways, £80m for smart ticketing and £300m to support low emission vehicles. However, perhaps the most important announcement was the commitment to the National Infrastructure Commission to spend 1 – 1.2% of GDP on infrastructure from 2020 to 2050, providing the long term planning and investment certainty needed as the Industry continues to catch-up with the decades of under-investment that has crippled many of our Core Cities and Corridors.
In addition to the six successful bids to the Large Local Majors Fund announced by Hammond, and in a move emphasising the Government’s new focus on ‘the Regions’, Grayling has since also announced a further six schemes to be taken forward to develop business cases, which now includes new infrastructure schemes in Suffolk, East Yorkshire, Shrewsbury, Tees Valley, Sheffield, Warrington, Manchester, Melton Mowbray, Cheshire and Coventry. Not unsurprisingly, there is a heavy northern bias to the announcements to date, as well as to new roads, but further details and announcements are expected over the coming weeks and months as Grayling continues his tour of ‘the Regions’. With the £1.8bn Local Growth Fund distributed around the country, and more hard hat (or not) photo-opportunities already in the diary, it is certainly a case of ‘watch this space’.
Turning to my own corner of the world, Bristol, it was disappointing the West of England LEP’s bid for funding to develop a business case for a multi-modal corridor scheme linking Bristol Airport with the city centre was overlooked by both Grayling and Hammond. Despite its well-known congestion problems, Bristol is the largest contributor to the UK economy outside of London, but its economic potential is restricted by the glass ceiling of accessibility, and this needs investment. Having recently returned from a weekend away in Edinburgh, the ease at which I was able to board the tram outside the terminal, and glide into the city centre, reinforced my belief that Bristol needs a light rail corridor to its airport, which could help unlock over £1bn GVA per annum to the local economy. I understand Grayling will be jumping on the (diesel – but that’s a whole different story) train to Bristol later this week, so fingers crossed!