Industry Welcomes Initiative To Fast-Track Transport Projects

The transport secretary has announcement a £360 million fund to level up and ‘build back better’ in the UK following the coronavirus pandemic.

The chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, Darren Shirley has been named the head of the UK government’s new ‘Acceleration Unit’, a team of non-government specialists governed by the Department for Transport (DfT) that aims to speed up delivery of transport projects

This coincides with transport secretary Grant Shapps’ announcement of £360 million in funding to level up and ‘build back better’ in the UK following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the New Civil Engineer.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “This £360M investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling-up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow.”

Shapps said that the new Acceleration Unit will help quickly deliver the vital road and rail upgrades that will create jobs and boost the economy. Consumer champion Shirley will report directly to Shapps and aims to have a team in place by next month.

According to the DfT, the new team will be working alongside infrastructure industry experts including Highways England’s director of complex infrastructure projects Chris Taylor and civil engineering firm Mace’s chief executive Mark Reynolds.

The director of policy for the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Chris Richards said: “Covid-19 has provided the opportunity to learn lessons about how we can better design, build and deliver infrastructure, many of which ICE has explored in recent work.

“The announcement of an Acceleration Unit shows recognition by government about the need to drive forward delivery and help get the economy moving again.”

The director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Marie-Claude Hemming welcomed the announcement, stating that the CECA has long been arguing for the acceleration of infrastructure projects as the best means for boosting the economy and provide much-needed jobs.

The chief executive of the Rail Industry Alliance agreed that it was positive news and that by accelerating rail projects provides a means for driving green economic growth, jobs and investment following the slowdown due to the pandemic.

Midlands Connect Director Maria Machancoses said the announcement was encouraging, but the new unit needs to empower transport bodies to allow schemes to move faster from concept, through evidence gathering and design, to ensuring projects are ‘shovel ready’ sooner.

“Only when funding, political will and expertise go hand in hand can we enact the change we need to deliver an infrastructure revolution and with it, projects like High Speed Two and Midlands Engine Rail,” she said.

Association for Consultancy and Engineering director of membership and business engagement Darrell Matthews said he welcomed that recognition of the industry as a catalyst for boosting the economic recovery, but warned about mistaking haste for speed.

He urged that it wasn’t just any project, but the right kinds of schemes and investment were required to deliver sustainable transport infrastructure and helping the country meet its net-zero targets.

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