Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction comments on the infrastructure investment programme which was announced by the government today:
“Roads, and in particular the National Roads network, are clearly among the big winners of today’s infrastructure investment announcements. The last time this country had a major roads investment plan was in 1989 when the Conservative Government’s White paper ‘Roads for Prosperity’ set out the largest road building programme ‘since the Romans’. Little of it came to fruition.
“Today’s announcement feels very much like the sequel, only our ambition now is not to beat the Romans but the investment levels of the 1970s. Note also the careful use of the term ‘road investment’ rather than ‘road building’ – much of what has been proposed today includes the use of technology to increase capacity, not laying more tarmac. The Government clearly has taken environmental concerns into account.
“The approach that the Government has set out is more important than the headline numbers. Turning the Highways Agency into a Government-Owned corporation and giving it long-term funding certainty should deliver major benefits in consistency of programme and efficiency. It belatedly accepts the keystone of Alan Cook’s 2011 report ‘A Fresh Start for the Strategic Road Network’. It paves the way for future privatisation, but at a more measured pace than the Government suggested a year ago when the Strategic Road Network review was launched.
“More funding for backlog maintenance, both on the local and national road networks, is also welcome. Initiating a process of review of potential solutions for congestion blackspots is sensible and whilst some may have hoped for a list of new schemes, it was never feasible for the Government to call up a whole programme of fully developed schemes, after so many years of hiatus in the road programme, as if summoning a genie from the bottle.”
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