Tom Keighley

Urgent action needed on delayed transport projects

Urgent action is needed on a range of UK transport projects, the British Chambers of Commerce has commented.

An assessment from the organisation indicates that too many projects are lagging, and of 13 “business-critical” projects, eight are seriously faltering.

A third runway at Heathrow was seen as one of the top priorities, stalled by the Coalition Agreement; and the A14 Ellington to Fen Ditton Scheme, a vital trunk route to connect east coast ports with the Midlands and the North, has been stalled until 2018.

In the North East, work to junctions on the A19 at the Tyne Tunnel are only in the planning stages, following the completion of the new £270m tunnel; and on the East Coast Mainline, there is a lack of capacity, and improvements have been pushed back to 2014-19.

The report also details a number of successful projects that are on the way to completion. They include London’s Crossrail project, and a replacement for the Forth Bridge in Scotland.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, 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.

“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 objections 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.”

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