Reaction to National Infrastructure Plan

Highways Reporters

The National Infrastructure Plan announced by the Government today (4 December) has received a mixture of responses from the industry.

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) director general Nick Baveystock said: “The National Infrastructure Plan plays a critical role in enabling the UK to compete in a modern world, creating jobs and growth and providing the stability for the UK to grow its engineering skills and capacity. Previous editions of the plan have set out a much needed and welcome vision for infrastructure, but the need for it to evolve into a robust delivery plan - aligned with the UK’s strategic goals – has become more pressing. The new 2013 plan, with its updated pipeline of projects, further £25bn investment and evidence of a shift to “delivery mode”, is a positive step and presents us with an opportunity to drive this agenda forward.”

Paul Fleetham, managing director of Lafarge Tarmac, said: “It is encouraging to see support for a new tranche of projects but it is now critical that the Government uses this momentum to deliver on its long-standing infrastructure promises. Despite continued vocal support from Ministers, infrastructure activity in the third quarter of this year was 3.7% down on 2012 – a year during which overall work volumes plummeted 13%.

“Delivery of this plan and the projects within it are conditional upon securing appropriate funding mechanisms. While I welcome news that the insurance industry is committed to investing £25bn over the next five years into transport and energy projects, we must be mindful that similar statements were made a year ago by pension funds, and, to-date, only £1bn of the £20bn that was promised has been delivered.

“The news that plans to toll the A14 have been dropped is reassuring and marks a vote for common sense. If tolls were enforced on such an important principle route, it would have placed huge pressures on the local authority road network.

“Against a backdrop of protracted delays for many large projects, it is disappointing that the updated National Infrastructure Plan fails to provide support for smaller schemes such as essential highways upgrades. The Government has previously said that it will provide additional funding for maintaining local roads from 2015-2020. However, we've not seen anything today which gives councils and contractors assurance that there are funds in place to maintain this rapidly deteriorating asset now.”

The president of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) Richard Hayes said: ?This announcement offers no new boost to assist highways engineers in maintaining the UK’s highway network and the country‘s largest infrastructure asset in the short term.
?Whilst the IHE welcomes fund improvements to the A50 around Uttoxeter and the scrapping of the A14 toll scheme, the country’s highway engineers need funds to be made available to manage UK’s road assets now. The IHE has stated repeatedly that additional capital funding for structural maintenance needs to be made available before 2015 and we will continue to call on the government to do so.

'Today's emphasis by Transport Minister Robert Goodwill on the need for local authorities to prepare good quality asset management plans at the APPG meeting in the House of Commons is a step in the right direction. We are also encouraged by the Minister's indication that additional funds could be made available to authorities where such plans are in place. However, even greater steps need to be taken to ensure that funding is made available now rather than at a future date and the IHE has reiterated this view to the Minister."

Steve Radley, director of policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Most of the projects announced will be completed in the next Parliament. Government should learn from current experience and start to look forward at what our infrastructure requirements beyond that will be. This will ensure a smooth transfer between projects for the infrastructure supply chain, enabling long term capability and investment to be built up."

On the announcement of a national networks national policy statement, due to be published this month Radley added: "This is welcome news, as there is currently no national policy statement for our road or rail networks which would help to accelerate the development of project proposals in these areas. This clarity is long overdue and will be welcomed by the supply chain industry."

Commenting on insurance industry investment and the announcement that the A14 will not be tolled, Katja Hall from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “With the majority of national infrastructure projects earmarked to be delivered by the private sector, the insurance industry’s £25 billion investment is good news.

“After so much uncertainty, the news that a decision has been finally made on funding for the A14 means this essential upgrade will get off the ground sooner.

“This will come as nothing short of a relief for businesses given the importance of this trade route to link the port of Felixstowe to the rest of the country.”

Sue Percy, Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) chief executive, said: “Transport infrastructure plays a vital role across the whole spectrum of society and impacts on both economic growth and social development. A balanced long-term investment programme that focuses on transport infrastructure will retain and create jobs and provide a major catalyst for sustained economic recovery.

“The funding and delivery of UK infrastructure needs to change to ensure that the UK competes globally.  Funding sources need to be in place over the short, medium and longer term. CIHT welcomes the confirmation that six insurers will invest £25 billion over the next five years.”

“The information outlined in the NIP 2013 is helpful but CIHT continues to call for projects to be delivered on time, effectively and consistently. We continue to work with Government and Infrastructure Alliance on the industry led ‘Building a world class highways supply chain’ initiative.  The project seeks to develop the skills and capabilities of the highways sector."

“At last, common sense has prevailed regarding the A14 tolls,” commented Malcolm Bingham, Freight Transport Association head of road network management policy. He added: “FTA believes that this can only be good news for businesses in the area by improving vital infrastructure which supports the local economy and provides a vital strategic national link. The result is the right decision - that the road will not be tolled and that there will be no delays to the project.”

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