Opinion Former Article

Budget supports local transport projects

English local authorities will compete for a share of £690M to be spent on improving their transport networks and tackling urban congestion, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Budget speech today.

Nearly £500M from this pot will be made available by early autumn, it was revealed. This latest allocation from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) comes alongside details of a number of local projects that have already secured Government support.

These include improvements to the A483 corridor in Cheshire, major maintenance of the Leicester Outer Ring Road, a new roundabout at Hales in Norfolk and upgrades to Blackpool town centre.

“It is very positive to see the Chancellor holding steady on his promised investment and delivering £690M to local transport projects,” commented consultant Ramboll’s transport market director Alan Pauling.

“What we really need now is for the pace of implementation to be ramped up, so that the real economic benefit of this promised infrastructure spend can be felt.” Philip Hammond also revealed progress on the devolution agenda, explaining that the Government has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding on further devolution to London.

This agreement will include joint working to explore the benefits of and scope for locally delivered action to tackle congestion, and a taskforce to look at piloting a new approach to funding infrastructure.

Philip Hammond also said: “I will follow the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Strategy at the Autumn Statement by publishing tomorrow our Midlands Engine Strategy, addressing productivity barriers across the Midlands.”

Turning his attention to the strategic road network the Chancellor announced that the Department for Transport will shortly reveal details of where £220M from the NPIF will be allocated to tackle pinch points, including £90M for the North and £23M for the Midlands.

Documents published alongside the Budget announcement also explain that the Government has completed a strategic study on relieving congestion on the south west sections of the M25, and will now develop options ahead of the next Road Investment Strategy.

On skills, new ‘T-levels’ for 16 to 19 year old technical students will be introduced from autumn 2019. Students will be able to choose from 15 different routes including ‘construction’ and ‘digital’, and will all take part in an industry work placement.

Meanwhile development of disruptive technologies such as driverless vehicles and better battery technology for new electric vehicles will be supported through a new £270M Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Consultant WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff’s UK head of infrastructure planning Adrian Hames said: “With uncertainty over Brexit we were never expecting a spending splurge but we did get some quick wins in technology and local transport improvements.”

He added: “While the introduction of T-levels is very much welcome for building upcoming major infrastructure projects with more young and skilled workers, these changes will take years to have an impact. The industry wants to get spades in the ground now. We have to be relentless in securing a stable pipeline of nationally significant projects that catalyse economic growth.”

CIHT director of policy & technical affairs Andrew Hugill said: “We welcome the budget statement today which again included a number of announcements that are of significant importance to CIHT.

“We were pleased to see an acknowledgement of the challenges facing the local road network. While we welcome the offer of funding we are conscious that a number of local authorities are already finding it a challenge to dedicate the resources needed to take part on these types of competition.

“CIHT are working with the government on ensuring we have the necessary skills in the sector to deliver the infrastructure outlined in previous statements. We welcome the added investment in technical qualifications and welcome the provision of 1,000 additional places for PHD students in STEM related subjects."

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