AS 2016: £2.6bn to ‘make transport fit for future’

The Autumn Statement made specific commitments to road and rail improvements, as the Chancellor vowed to “keep Britain moving” with £1.1bn set aside to fund work on local transport networks.

The fund includes £220m to tackle congestion pinch points on roads.

Separately, as part of a wider push into increased digital innovation in the transport sector, Hammond allocated £450m to install digital signaling on railways, and £80m to accelerate the roll out of smart ticketing.

Almost £400m was granted to research into low-emission vehicles, renewable fuels, and autonomous cars, including £80m on installing charging infrastructure for electric cars.

The renewed commitment to transport investment formed part of Hammond’s announcement of a £23bn national productivity investment fund, in which he prioritised the funding for infrastructure, alongside housing, and research and development.

In the North, the Autumn Statement confirmed that work on the Manchester M60 North West Quadrant, and Pennines A66 improvements, would be funded through its Road Investment Strategy. Two junctions on the A69 will be upgraded using the pinch-point fund.

In Warrington, the Chancellor allocated business case development funding to Warrington Council’s proposed Waterfront Western Link. The route would include the construction of a bridge across the Manchester Ship Canal and a new highway linking A56 Chester Road near Walton across to the A57 Sankey Way.

Warrington has been in talks with the Government to fund the project for some time, with the council previously pushing for an award of £72m to fund the bulk of construction.

No specific announcements were forthcoming on Northern Powerhouse Rail, the high speed rail link planned to link Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. According to Hammond, “work is ongoing” with Transport for the North to develop options for the project. He said that the Government planned to announce next steps in 2017.

Industry reacts

John Cridland, chairman of Transport for the North, said: “The Government’s recognition of the need to invest in the North to help unleash its huge potential is very welcome. One of the major hindrances for the North is poor transport infrastructure, particularly east-west links. That’s why we are developing Northern Powerhouse Rail, a network which will revolutionise train travel for passengers and freight, and it’s why we’re working with our partners to identify all of the major roads in the North which are vital for the growth of the region’s economy. The improvements announced today are a good first step in building the transport links needed to transform the North.”

David Lathwood, director of North West at JLL, said: “I’m sure many in the North West will welcome Philip Hammond coming good on the well-trailed additional funding for infrastructure projects. Megaprojects like HS2, the Sheffield-Manchester tunnel and eventually HS3 will all add extra capacity in the long-term, what has been missing has been a strategy to help solve the here and now – particularly on the road networks.

“Manchester, is among the most congested cities in the UK and despite a fantastic development story that supports much of the North West economically, it still operates with a very compact inner core. We’re keen to see some of this infrastructure investment come to the region to help attract investment and spread the strong residential and commercial markets out to fringe areas.”

Gareth Wilson, planning partner at Barton Willmore, comments: “Infrastructure took quite the starring role in Hammond’s first Autumn Statement, and the stage has been set for a strong spending package to play out across the country. The May Administration has firmly nailed its colours to the mast in making a clear and decisive commitment to infrastructure-led development, recognising this can be instrumental in solving our housing crisis in the areas that need it most, and economic growth in a post-Brexit Britain.

“It’s vital that our powerhouses outside of London are supported by critical new and upgraded infrastructure that will allow these centres to continue to thrive. With infrastructure investment being rolled out across every region of England – and at a time when much EU funding is uncertain in many areas – these reassurances should be a big boost to confidence.”

Chris Cheap, regional senior director of GVA Manchester, said: “Physical Infrastructure investment into roads and rail formed a large part of the Chancellor‘s announcement today, partly designed to ease commuter gridlock. But funding this and other ambitious “high value infrastructure” presents a challenge as tax-revenue is reduced. We fear the Chancellor will therefore use one of the Treasury’s older tricks having announced the funding today, by deferring its availability until 2019 or even later. We would urge Government to avoid this, be bold and press on. Investment follows investment, and if an example can be set with larger scale infrastructure, then this will assist in ensuring that the smaller quick-win projects can commit and follow.”

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