Nick Smee on Autumn Budget infrastructure announcements
Senior figures in the transport and infrastructure sector have backed the key announcements in the Autumn Budget, although concerns have been expressed over future transport funding, with more competitive bidding and no clear progress on Crossrail 2.
The Government and Transport for London have been in talks over the financing of Crossrail 2 since July at least, with little signs of progress, and recently concerns have been raised that the project could be delayed as a result of funing difficutlies.
Marie-Claude Hemming of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said: ‘We are disappointed that there is not more news on the Crossrail 2 talks, and we will continue to work with Government and TfL to help unlock this world-class project, to generate much needed capacity across the South East.’
However she ‘particularly welcomed’ the backing of the NIC’s report on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor, ‘commitments to local growth, maintaining the industry’s skills need and the commitments given to housebuilding, which in turn will generate their own infrastructure need’.
Sue Percy, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, said: ‘We were pleased to see the transport fund for city regions and will be examining in more detail the content of this announcement.
‘While we await clarity on how this fund will work, we are conscious that a number of local authorities are already finding it difficult to dedicate the resources needed to take part in any competitive bidding for funds.’
This is perhaps a reference to the fact that half of the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund, which itself comes under the National Productivity Investment Fund, will be provided on a per capita basis directly to the six areas that have elected metro mayors. The rest looks set to be subject to competitive bidding processes.
This also raised eyebrows in council directors’ body ADEPT, with president Simon Neilson warning of a ‘potential schism between the have and have nots’. He added that competitive bidding ‘was largely a waste of resources’.
Nick Smee, CEO of asset management firm Yotta, said that with 300,000 electric vehicles expected to be on the roads by 2020, it is crucial that the Government builds on its existing commitments to upgrade our infrastructure.
He said: ‘With this in mind, I’d also like to see the speeding up and rollout of faster, higher capacity communications networks to allow the rapid deployment of IoT devices, enabling better connectivity across the network. This in turn will provide greater visibility to national and local government of the condition of their infrastructure assets and lead to better, more efficient asset management practices.’
The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) said the career retraining scheme announced in the Budget ‘may give the construction industry the shot in the arm it has long campaigned for’.
RSMA chairman Paul Aldridge said: ‘The highways sector has highlighted extensively the shortage of skills, with talent spread thinly to cover new construction schemes such as Crossrail and HS2.’
The chancellor again froze fuel duty but made a change to the taxation of diesel cars, whereby new cars registered from 1 April 2018 will see a higher first year Vehicle Excise Duty unless they conform to the latest real world driving standards.
AA president Edmund King said this was unnecessary as the current batch of Euro 6 diesels are much cleaner than Euros 1 to 5 already on our roads.
He said: ‘Diesel sales have slumped this year which shows that drivers are already voting with their wheels. Currently 42% of AA members own a diesel; this drops by 62% with only 16% saying they will buy a diesel again as their next car.’
RAC head of external affairs Peter Williams said owners of diesel would need to keep their eyes on local authorities, who may be introducing clean air zones in the near future.
He added: ‘The side effect of today’s announcement however might be that there is a risk therefore that it might encourage some to stay with their older diesel vehicles.’