Government to speed up key transport projects

The UK Government will spend an extra £1 billion on major transport projects next year to stimulate the economy.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said the money will be used to accelerate Government plans to cut congestion and significantly increase rail capacity. It includes the £700m fiscal stimulus announced in the Pre-Budget Report on Monday (24 November) to make the most of Britain's rail and road networks, as well as £300m of new Government funding to speed up the delivery of improved transport links to key airports and ports. They will also offer more environmentally-friendly options for transporting freight.

Geoff Hoon said: "Congestion, whether it is on our roads or railways, is not just a nuisance to travellers, it is also a tax on the productivity of our businesses, and if left unchecked could become a brake on growth."

The Department for Transport has also published a policy consultation.

The £700m fiscal stimulus will deliver three key transport milestones:

* The delivery of 200 new carriages earlier than originally expected for rail passengers in the Thames Valley, around Bristol and on longer distance inter-urban services in Northern England;

* The acceleration of work to make better use of Britain's motorways, following detailed examination earlier this year into the feasibility of introducing hard-shoulder running on around 500 lane miles. An announcement will be made in the New Year on which motorways will be opened to hard-shoulder traffic.

* Work could now start next year, two years early, on providing a new fast link between the A1 and M1 by dualling the missing section of A46 from Newark to Widmerpool, subject to the outcome of statutory processes and funding confirmation from the Region. This could enable the scheme to open to traffic in late 2011 - rather than in 2016 as previously planned.

As well as this, the Government has earmarked £300m to improve access routes to some  key international gateways - airports and ports - if regional and other partners agree to provide co-funding. These include:

* Up to £165m for a new road link between Manchester Airport and the A6 to the east.

* An extra £54m to increase the long-term freight capacity of the North London rail line by removing bottlenecks and improving signalling and other infrastructure.

* Up to £60m for traffic management measures to improve safety, reduce delays and tackle congestion along 54 miles of the A12 - the main road link and a key freight route from London to the Felixstowe and Harwich Ports.

* Up to £30m will be available to help improve access on the A160/A180 to Immingham Port on the River Humber, the UK's largest freight port.

The schemes form part of a longer-term approach to transport planning outlined by the Government in October last year, in response to the Eddington Study and Stern Review. The Department for Transport is now inviting comments on its delivery strategy through a formal consultation process.

Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of the Association of Consultancy and Engineering, commented: “It goes without saying that we are in favour of these plans and agree with Mr Hoon that significant spending in the sector is vital if consultancy and engineering is to thrive, and in some cases survive, in the UK.”

However, Stephen Joseph, executive director of environmental lobby group Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is a ragbag list of schemes rather than a considered package that is needed to take us towards 2014. While the rail upgrades are encouraging, some of the road schemes will worsen rather than solve local traffic problems and are not in fact the region’s priority. By avoiding putting any money into local transport, the Government is avoiding tackling where most of the problems – and the opportunities for solving them - really are.”

He concluded: “The accompanying transport policy consultation makes all the right noises about integration of different modes, linking housing and transport planning and modal shift from cars to public transport, cycling and walking. But strategies and consultations will mean nothing if in practice the Government keeps funding big road schemes rather than giving people real low-carbon transport choices”

 

The consultation document, Delivering a Sustainable Transport System: Consultation on Planning for 2014 and Beyond, is available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/planning/dastsconsultation.pdf

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