The General Election has resulted in a hung parliament, which could affect the prospects of any controversial road schemes.
Although Theresa May intends to continue as prime minister, with the support of the DUP, we are now entering a time of uncertainty where a weak government may find it hard to push through any project likely to cause local backlashes.
The currency markets last night rose and fell almost as a bellweather against a hung parliament, with city investors crying out for some form of the ‘strong and stable’ government once promised by the PM.
With international financial markets yet to even face the actual Brexit negotiations, which were due to start in under a fortnight, many in the infrastructure sector are feeling nervous about supplies of major investment.
Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: ‘Our most recent member survey showed orders dropping for infrastructure contractors for the first quarter since 2013. A lack of clear leadership in Westminster creates a real risk that this potential future downturn will become entrenched due to an inability to get vital decisions over the line.
‘We hope that there will be an early resolution to the current uncertainty over the shape of any new Government, allowing decisions on projects such as HS2 to be made and work to get underway on building the infrastructure that the UK needs.’
Sue Percy, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) said: ‘Certainty of funding and investment is fundamental, so the on-going development of industrial and housing strategies remains key. Any future investment must include the whole-life maintenance of this transport infrastructure.
‘Brexit will provide the UK with the opportunity to use transportation infrastructure investment to ensure that we have the economy and resources to improve our productivity and competitiveness in global markets.’
A major infrastructure project that could come under scrutiny is the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which is backed by current transport secretary Chris Grayling and could cost up to £6bn.
Labour has said it supports the scheme but that if it came into government it would ‘need to ensure that the decision making process has been completely robust and represents the best value for money’.
Labour’s manifesto also pledged to ‘refocus the roads building and maintenance programmes, connecting our communities, feeding public transport hubs and realising untapped economic potential’.
Addressing illegal levels of air pollution will represent a serious challenge for any government, particularly the Conservatives who have failed twice to put forward a planned process the courts can agree to.
The Government was forced to publish a new draft national air quality plan during the election campaign but campaign group ClientEarth has already said it believes the plan to be inadequate and is taking ministers back to court for a third time.