Transport partner, Kevin Bell, voices his opinion on the back of Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement:
"As someone who cares passionately about the key role that public transport plays in connecting and transforming our towns and cities, boosting our economic recovery and delivering even more education and job opportunities, it is positive to hear the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, confirm in his Autumn Statement that infrastructure remains a "growth priority" for the Government and that he will not be "cutting a penny" from capital investment budgets over the next two years.
So the many large transport infrastructure projects that we initially feared could face the chop in order to fill the £60 billion black hole would appear, at first glance, to continue full steam ahead. HS2 to Manchester, the continued development of East West Rail and the promise to introduce the Northern Powerhouse Rail core network.
But scratch beneath the surface of the announcements from the despatch box at lunchtime and we find out that, for example, the plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail is to revert to the watered down version delivered in the Integrated Rail Plan that was published this time last year. A network that will, admittedly, consist of a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Yorkshire and additional upgrades to existing infrastructure but which falls well short of former Prime Minister Liz Truss' promise from just over a month ago for a brand new electrified line from Liverpool to Hull, a new station in Bradford and even more besides. Rejoicing and relief one month. Wailing and gnashing of teeth the next. Critics of the Government's proposals will argue that, even in these difficult times, they do not go far enough to transform the North's rail infrastructure, which is needed for Levelling Up (remember that one?), and to deliver long-term, credible economic growth.
And at the time of writing, we are still waiting to hear if the Government has any plans to fully deliver on its National Bus Strategy and provide a long-term funding package for bus services (with some vital bus routes facing a cliff-edge when current funding runs out in April 2023) as well as continuing to support and promote the benefits of light rail and tram systems in the UK.
It certainly makes for interesting times in the UK transport and infrastructure sector as we look to deliver growth and stability on the one hand whilst balancing the books on the other…"