Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: ‘It has been a particularly difficult time for this Budget, with coronavirus rightly being the Government’s number one priority. Looking to the long term, though, it is clearly welcome that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has re-committed the Government to infrastructure spending and rail investment, including backing major projects like Midlands Rail Hub, HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and others. We also look forward to seeing the upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy, which we encourage the Government to publish as soon as possible.
‘From the railway industry’s perspective, rail suppliers are excited and ready to deliver this ambitious programme of investment to ‘level-up’ opportunities and unlock the full potential of UK rail. However, as we set out in our submission to the Budget last month, there are five ‘crunch points’ which could act as a barrier and hamper the sector’s ability to deliver the world class railway everyone would like to see.
‘These ‘crunch points’ are renewals, rolling stock, enhancements, decarbonisation and digitalisation. Investment in each of these areas can be characterised in terms of ‘boom and bust’, with some not ramping up until the middle of the 2020s meaning a real shortfall in the next five years, when rail businesses need to be boosting capabilities and investing in people to deliver.
‘So we urge the Government to work with the Railway Industry Association and our members to find solutions to these crunch points – for example, by bringing work forward from CP7 into CP6 – and to smooth out ‘boom and bust’ investment so that we can continue to develop customer-focused rail in the UK and to increase UK plc’s offer abroad.”
Christopher Snelling, Head of UK Policy at the Freight Transport Association, said: ‘FTA has been urging government to commit to a programme of infrastructure improvement for several years; we are thrilled to see the Chancellor has pledged to spend billions of pounds on upgrades across the UK. Businesses within the logistics sector rely on safe, effective and well-maintained road networks to keep goods moving across the UK, but the poor state of roads across the nation has compromised their ability to do so; the economic performance of the country has suffered as a result. Now, we are calling on government to press ahead urgently with its plans; the UK’s road and rail network has been subject to chronic underinvestment for many years and this programme is long overdue.’
Cathy Travers, Managing Director, UK and Europe at Mott MacDonald said: ‘Today’s Budget makes some important down payments on the government’s promise of an infrastructure revolution and desire to level-up infrastructure investment. The further downgrading of UK’s productivity performance by the OBR highlights just how urgent it is to start investing in the assets that will underpin our future growth.
‘Increased investment in flood risk management will be welcomed across the country, none more so than in those communities who are continually impacted by climatic weather events. Annual flood damage costs are already in the region of £1.1 billion and could rise to as much as £27 billion by 2080. This means there is limited time to safeguard hundreds and thousands of homes, so we must start taking bold action now. Just as importantly we need to spend the money wisely. We will need to be innovative and be willing to do things differently, which may require new policy approaches from government.
‘We need to develop our resilience to flooding so we can recover quickly and with minimal impact on society. Counterintuitively, in some areas it will be better to allow existing communities on the flood plain to grow, if that new development is designed to help the whole area deal with rainwater more effectively. These types of solution can not only build resilience but also help places at risk of flooding suffering economic stagnation, while reducing the pressure for greenfield development elsewhere. Our work in a range of places, including Hull, Salisbury and Sydney has shown that these types of schemes drive up quality of life by creating new green spaces for local people as well as acting as a carbon-sink.
‘We already knew and applauded the decision to progress with HS2 which will make a vital contribution to towards meeting the needs of communities, businesses and industry, and will provide jobs, apprenticeships and career opportunities for both the current and next generations. The delay to the government’s National infrastructure Strategy provides an opportunity to refocus, go further and demonstrate the positives of new and improved infrastructure as a catalyst for economic growth, jobs and better social outcomes. The review of the Green Book and further devolution of funding to metro mayors is a chance to ensure our decision-making processes spread these benefits across the country. Mott MacDonald will use its physical presence in cities like Leeds (where we are an anchor employer) to ensure that infrastructure is designed around the needs of local people.
‘As we transition out of the European Union, investment in nationally critical transport, utilities and local infrastructure will be vital to attracting funding from other sources and delivering the productivity improvements that the government has set out.
‘All future investment in new infrastructure and the upkeep and modernisation of existing assets must be mindful of the government’s commitment to cut UK greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.’