Transport projects 'stuck in slow lane'
TOO MANY transport projects crucial to business growth are stuck in the slow lane, the British Cambers of Commerce (BCC) said today.
Of 13 key projects just three are going ahead, with two having some funding committed and eight delayed, cancelled or merely under consideration.
Bold action was needed from the Government to improve transport infrastructure, said the BCC. It listed progress on 13 priority transport schemes which it first identified as vital before the 2010 general election.
The BCC said: "While the Government has taken important steps to boost infrastructure funding and delivery since the first Budget, the updated assessment shows that too many transport projects, which are crucial to business growth, are stuck in the slow lane."
The three BCC-earmarked projects going ahead are:
:: Birmingham Motorway Scheme - Variable speed limits and cars using hard shoulder on M5, M6, M40 and M42, with work due to be completed in spring 2014;
:: Forth Replacement Crossing: A replacement for the deteriorating existing road bridge was given the go ahead by the Scottish Government and Transport for Scotland in January 2011 and will be complete by 2016;
:: Crossrail, London: The cross-London rail link is well under way and expected to be fully operational in 2019, improving capacity across the capital.
BCC director of policy Dr Adam Marshall said: "Transport infrastructure is critical to business growth but progress on the investment promised by successive governments continues to be too slow.
"Whenever key decisions to improve capacity on the country's rail, road and air networks are delayed, our businesses and economy are missing out. Even where projects have been given the go-ahead in Westminster, progress is typically slow and in too many cases is mired in the planning stages."
He went on: "We need bold action from the Government to improve the UK's transport infrastructure. This kind of investment is insulated from global uncertainty, and it creates short-term confidence, jobs in the medium term, and improves the UK's competitiveness in the long term.
"Ministers must use all the powers at their disposal to kick-start these lay projects. In some cases, that will mean using the Government's balance sheet to unlock private funding, and in others, it will mean using planning powers to overcome objectives and speed the process of construction.
"We are confident now that ministers understand the need for infrastructure investment. We're not yet confident that their welcome commitment is translating into action on the ground."
Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "Making sure that the country has the transport network it needs to deliver economic growth is a top priority for us.
"That is why, despite the economic challenges we face, we have committed to building HS2, a hugely ambitious infrastructure project which will support and sustain long-term growth across the whole country."
He added there had also been "substantial investment" on the East Coast Main Line and £1.8 billion spent on local transport projects,
Shadow Treasury chief secretary Rachel Reeves said: "This report is further evidence of the Government's failure to deliver the infrastructure investment we need to create jobs and growth and strengthen our economy for the future.
"This dithering, delay and lack of leadership in the Treasury has led to widespread uncertainty for investors."