MPs question feasibility of infrastructure projects
The majority of MPs doubt the Government’s ability to deliver on key infrastructure projects a recent survey has suggested, as industry leaders lay out an action plan for the sector.
A survey of 107 MPs by the sector’s skills council, CITB-Construction Skills and the market research agency ComRes, found 54% believed planned infrastructure projects including local energy and transport plans, would not be delivered on time and to budget.
Senior politicians including former construction minister Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, chairman of the Strategic Forum for Construction, have questioned the Government’s long-term strategy on infrastructure, particularly the transport sector.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference this week, Lord O’Neill said: ‘Too often the choices politicians make about where to invest, simply isn’t informed by a strategic view of the long-term demands on Britain’s infrastructure.
‘I hope we do a bit better than the “can’t see beyond the next election” cliché, as cross-party support on HS2 [High Speed Rail 2] and our call for bi-partisan talks on airport capacity demonstrate – and at last those calls have been heeded.’
In response to such fears within parliament and the sector, the Infrastructure Alliance - which brings together major industry groups including the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association - has developed an action plan to boost Britain’s infrastructure sector.
Released on 3 October, an Infrastructure Alliance report entitled Avoiding the Infrastructure Crunch: Getting Britain working, has called for immediate action to stimulate ‘shovel-ready’ maintenance and minor works.
The group also call for a major ‘rebalancing of investment throughout the UK’ to support local communities for a ‘more even economic recovery’, together with ‘a greater consensus on the country’s infrastructure needs and how they can be best delivered and paid for’.
The Treasury is still developing an alternative model to the private finance initiative (PFI) model that funded so much infrastructure work under New Labour.
Infrastructure Alliance also suggested the Government should undertake and analysis of future demand for skills to ensure the UK has a world class infrastructure workforce available to deliver vital future projects.
Judy Lowe, deputy chair of CITB-ConstructionSkills, said: ‘Right now Government is spending £8bn in benefits for 188,000 unemployed construction workers. If they commit instead to investment in shovel-ready projects, these people could be trained-up and working tomorrow.’
One shovel-ready project that would have dramatic benefits for users of the West Coast Main Line is the grade separation work at Ledburn Junction - this could be carried out within 5 years and would double commuter capacity between Milton Keynes, Northampton and London at peak times. That is the sort of transport infra-structure project we really need on the railways, focusing on commuter services which are the most used and most environmentally beneficial.Shirley Judges, Board Member, Chilterns Conservation Board, Added: Wednesday, 3 October 2012 07:10 PM
Building houses and renewing schools can produce results in under a year and collateral benefits (economic stimulus etc) under 6 months. HS2 and H/Row 10 to 15 years. No Brainer.Patrick Newman, ex local government, Stevenage, Added: Wednesday, 3 October 2012 12:56 PM
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