Dominic Browne 14 October 2019

Queen's Speech 19: Whitehall unveils major infrastructure and rail plans

Queens Speech 19: Whitehall unveils major infrastructure and rail plans image

The Queen's Speech has pledged a revamped national infrastructure strategy designed to help support growth across the UK, as well as an aviation bill and proposals for rail reform.

Relating the minority government's legislative plans, her majesty the Queen said: 'To ensure that the benefits of a prospering economy reach every corner of the United Kingdom, my ministers will bring forward a National Infrastructure Strategy.

'This will set out a long-term vision to improve the nation’s digital, transport and energy infrastructure. New legislation will help accelerate the delivery of fast, reliable and secure broadband networks to millions of homes [Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill].

'An aviation bill will provide for the effective and efficient management of the United Kingdom’s airspace Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill. Proposals on railway reform will be brought forward.'

National Infrastructure Strategy

National infrastructure strategies are not new, with the coalition government releasing an infrastructure plan in 2010. The National Infrastructure Commission also produced the first national infrastructure assessment document last year.

The Government's strategy is designed to provide its formal response to the Commission’s assessment, which made a series of independent recommendations to government across all sectors of economic infrastructure (transport, energy, digital, waste, water and flood management).

Housing

Following the 2017 Grenfell tragedy, the Government said it would legislate to put in place new and modernised regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, ensuring residents have a stronger voice.

The main benefits of the legislation would be 'a fundamental change in the regulatory framework for high rise residential buildings, and the industry culture to ensure accountability and responsibility' to make sure residents are safer in their homes.

Aviation

The Government's aviation plans come after the collapse of Thomas Cook this year and Monarch Airlines in 2017.

The Queen's speech promised to bring forward legislation 'to make sure that people can get home quickly when an airline goes bust'.

Also in light of recent disturbances from drones that shut down Gatwick Airport, the Government promised action to modernise UK airspace to make 'journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner, whilst also tackling the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft (drones)'.

New police powers to tackle the problem would include the ability to require a person to land an unmanned aircraft and enhanced stop and search powers where particular unmanned aircraft related offences have taken place.

Rail reforms

The Queen's Speech stopped short of announcing legislation on rail reforms but promised to publish a White Paper on the ongoing Williams Review's recommendations on the future of the railway later this autumn, and then start implementing reforms from 2020.

It is expected to call for an overhaul of the current franchising system.

One option reportedly being discussed is the concession model, which would see private companies being contracted to run the train lines but with local authorities setting fares and timetables.

HS2

The Government is continuing with the High Speed Rail 2 (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill first introduced in the House of Commons in July 2017.

The bill provides the powers to build and operate HS2's Phase 2a, which is 36 miles long and runs from a spur from the Phase One route - London Euston to Birmingham - at Fradley, near Lichfield. It also connects to the West Coast Main Line south of Crewe.

The news comes amid speculation parts of HS2 would be cut under a review led by Doug Oakervee.

The inclusion of phase 2a in the Queen's Speech will increase fears that the 2b section form Crew to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds could be a risk of cutbacks.

Space

The Government has pledged a new National Space Council and UK Space Strategy, as well as a boost to public R&D funding.

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