Industry reacts to Autumn Statement

The industry has given its reaction to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement.

Major investment in infrastructure and a package of road improvements were just some of the plans revealed in the Government’s first major economic update since Brexit.

Here’s what some of the associations, contractors, consultants and companies had to say:

 

Howard Robinson IMG_7605w 10.3.14Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), said: “Chancellor Philip Hammond has failed to address the fundamental issue facing the UK’s transport infrastructure – there is little point in making significant investments in headline projects if the roads that connect them are potholed and crumbling away.

“Unfortunately, the Chancellor has has shown the same lack of understanding as his predecessors. The £1.1 billion announced in today’s Autumn Statement for local transport networks will do little to address the decades of underinvestment in load road maintenance which has resulted in a £12 billion backlog of pothole repairs.

“The Chancellor makes much of the need to invest in infrastructure to prove that Britain is open for business. Yet over 90% of our traffic is carried by a local road network that is simply not up to scratch. He has failed to understand that the local road network is the essential link to headline projects such as the Cambridge to Oxford expressway.

“Investment in infrastructure may be summed up by the idiom ‘learn to walk before you run’. Invest in fundamental and essential road maintenance before you announce grand projects. Or do both.”

 

Mike Putnam, Skanska UK’s president and CEO, said: “Clearly, the Government’s pledge to focus investment on improving the country’s infrastructure is good news for the construction sector and good for employment. But the industry also faces some challenges if it is to deliver on the Government’s promises.

“We have to improve skills training, recruit people with the skills relevant to new technologies and work hard to build a much more diverse and inclusive workforce. Only by doing these things will we have the people with the capabilities required to deliver on the government’s commitments as effectively as it rightly expects.

“Also, we welcome the National Productivity Investment Fund, announced by the Chancellor, in which infrastructure and research and innovation are seen as pivotal to addressing the UK’s productivity challenge.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to transform the industry in terms of our people and our productivity. If customers, contractors and government can work effectively together to make real progress, then we can be more than optimistic for the future and deliver the infrastructure improvements that everyone wants to see.”

 

John Hicks, director and head of government & public, AECOM, said: “As a man renowned for both detail and caution in delivery, the lack of fanfare in Chancellor Hammond’s final Autumn Statement comes as no surprise. In many ways it was more a prelude to the next Budget. Examination of the detail will be necessary to see what can be done to enhance productivity and economic gain.

“The new £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund and the £2.3 billion for a new Housing Infrastructure Fund are welcome boosts to the UK economy, while the £390 million investment in future transport technology holds promise.

“The missing component in the Autumn Statement was a new pipeline of transparent, viable projects for much heralded high-value investment, which the Chancellor wants linked to productivity in order to secure public funding. Without this, investors will not make the all-important final move. But the Chancellor’s call for the National Infrastructure Commission to make recommendations on the UK’s future infrastructure needs could effectively hold up the publication of such a list. An intent to publicise falls short of being an actionable pipeline, which we hope would not delay much-needed private sector investment.

“As the Autumn Statement shifts to spring, has the opportunity been missed to make progress, secure skills and give confidence to the lending community in the intervening period?”

 

Alan Pauling, group market director, Ramboll, commented: “It’s not all about grand projects. Smaller, well planned, quickly delivered local projects provide visible solutions to long standing problems. Improving the efficiency of commuter routes will directly and immediately benefit productivity.

“The Chancellor’s commitment to dealing with pinch-points is good news but if this only relates to the strategic road network then only covers 2% of England’s total road network. There are far more pinch-points off the SRN than on it.”

 

Dr Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the Autumn Statement: “Today’s announcement of additional spending for transport, technology, energy and infrastructure, leaves one crucial part of the puzzle out: skills. All this funding, without the skilled people to deliver these projects, is like funding an empty shed. Government wants home-grown talent to deliver Research & Development, driverless cars and new energy infrastructure, but we just don’t have the sufficient engineers to deliver this. We have a shortage of key skills today and no clear plan on how to develop a skills pipeline for tomorrow. Government must face facts and outline a clear strategy to ensure the UK has the skills it needs for the economy to thrive.

“Increasing the uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles play a huge role in the UK’s future but we must ensure it’s part of an integrated transport strategy in the UK so today’s announcement for continued support to these initiative are welcomed. Major infrastructure projects are being developed in isolation which still focus on how journeys are made, and not on the ‘why’ or ‘when’.

“We suggest that Government departments collaboratively develop a strategy to incentivise and support an integrated approach that would better serve passengers, providing a resilient infrastructure which is cost effective, efficient and reliable encouraging modal shift towards modes that better protect the environment.”

 

Martin Tett, leader of England’s Economic Heartland (EEH), said: “We know the potential we have in the Heartland area which is why all nine county and unitary councils and the three local enterprise partnerships have come together to provide the proper strategic leadership needed to drive that economic growth.

“As we saw last week in the National Infrastructure Commission’s interim report on the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor, their advice to Government was that investing in the corridor was ‘a once in a generation opportunity and it should be grabbed with both hands’.

“On behalf of the Strategic Alliance, I’m glad that the Government has responded so positively and so quickly in their Autumn Statement. We must now keep up that pace of change to make sure we unlock that growth and additional prosperity as quickly as we are able.”

 

GAllister 3Geoff Allister, executive director of the Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA), said: “It is clear that government understands the economic and social benefits of investing in our highways infrastructure, and that this will stimulate local and national economies, sustain jobs and growth in local areas and improve the condition of the road network.  HTMA’s Invest to Save Report indicates that for every £1m invested in maintaining the road network, savings of £2.2m can be expected. However, it is important that there is an appropriate balance between funding for road improvements and funding for road maintenance and I await the Department for Transport’s detailed plans with interest.

“While acknowledging the additional investment, HTMA calls for a longer term view of maintenance funding for the local road network. This would provide investment and workload certainty; giving confidence on which the sector can successfully invest and build capacity, bringing together the right people, processes, technology and materials, to deliver the programme of work brought about by investment growth.”

 

Thomas Moons, general manager sales and operations Europe and South Africa for Shell Bitumen, said: “Shell Bitumen welcomes the decision by the Treasury to invest in the UK road network. The measures announced today by the Chancellor Philip Hammond, in conjunction with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, will deliver important investment for local and national road projects.

“Durable, safe and sustainable roads have a central role to play in the UK economy. The investments announced today are aimed at improving journeys for motorists, connecting communities and businesses. Shell is ready to play its part in supporting the delivery of these ambitious infrastructure projects.”

 

Chris Dyer, head of professional services, Yotta, said: “It is positive news that the Chancellor is planning to invest £1.1 billion in improving the country’s local infrastructure with £220 million set to be invested specifically on tackling the most congested roads. I particularly welcome the emphasis on delivering vital upgrades to local roads.

“The major highways network, including motorways and the larger ‘A’ roads, should always be a priority of course because that is where most of the traffic is, and also where the greatest commercial value lies. However, the local road network should never be neglected. People are naturally more concerned about the stretch of highway outside their front door and the road network that they use to travel to work every day, than they are about a distant motorway – and they need to be listened to and proactively engaged with.

“What’s more concerning though, when you look at the wider picture, is that the revenue budgets that local and regional highways departments have at their disposal remain tight today and are likely to get even tighter in the future. So despite the planned focus on road upgrades and new capital investment there is a danger that in reality councils could be faced with another challenging year of protecting already limited budgets against other services, and making these budgets stretch further to provide a level of service which is no lower than it was previously.”

 

Deputy chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Sir John Armitt said: “The government’s acceptance of the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations for the Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford corridor is most welcome.

“The growth corridor between Cambridge Milton Keynes and Oxford could help fire the British economy, but only if we back it with the homes and infrastructure it needs to thrive. Last week the NIC presented the compelling case for investment in East West rail and the Oxford Cambridge Expressway, as part of a wider joined up plan to help this region succeed. This is a once in a generation opportunity and the government is absolutely right to accept those recommendations.”

On the launch of the NIC’s Technology study he added: “From electric vehicles to the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence?, the technologies of the future could have an enormous impact on the UK’s economic infrastructure and the ways in which rely upon it.

“As new technologies develop, Britain must do everything it can to ensure that we are best placed to reap the benefits – and that includes incorporating innovative new systems and practices into the infrastructure that keeps our country moving.

“Britain should seek to lead the world in harnessing the emerging technologies that can make our lives easier and our economy more productive. This study will consider how we make that happen.”

On the announcement of the NIC’s fiscal remit he continued: “Today’s announcement represents a crucial step in the formation of the NIC. Providing a clear remit and a long-term funding guideline for British infrastructure will help this country plan for the long term and deliver the systems and networks we need to compete.”

 

Alan Mackenzie.Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), commented: “We are reassured that the Chancellor has recognised the importance of investment in road infrastructure to stimulate productivity and growth.

“The devil is, of course, in the detail. Long term underfunding means that the local road network continues to deteriorate at a faster rate than it can be repaired. We hope the decline in maintenance funding experienced by local highways teams will be addressed by real and measurable increases.”

 

 

Head of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Marie-Claude Hemming, said: “CECA is delighted that the Chancellor has committed to driving growth through infrastructure, and particularly welcome his focus on innovation.

“Ahead of today’s announcement, CECA has been calling for the Government to make a long-term commitment to innovation in order to ensure the delivery of world-class infrastructure in the UK.

“We have also said that, having tackled strategic priorities in previous Autumn Statements, the Government should now focus on local investment by backing major local projects and rolling out further City Deals. Today’s Autumn Statement shows that the Government is committed to driving economic growth through investment in innovative, world-class infrastructure, and that it will do so in a manner that rebalances the economy.

“This can only be in the best interests of securing the long-term economic health of UK plc, to the benefits of businesses and taxpayers alike.”

 

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Things can always be better but against a backdrop of deteriorating public finances this Autumn Statement was broadly positive for drivers and road users. The continued duty freeze indicates the Chancellor recognises transport is the biggest single area of household expenditure and two thirds of workers commute by car.
“However, it is worth remembering that even if fuel companies wanted to give petrol and diesel away for free they couldn’t. Drivers would still pay 69.5p a litre – 57.95p in fuel duty and VAT on top of that.
“The £1.3 billion earmarked for roads has been confirmed as new money. Most of the cash will go on improving the more than 200,000 miles of local roads that fall outside the strategic road network and that the majority of drivers use on a daily basis, however the local road maintenance backlog remains a formidable one with the cost to clear it entirely estimated by ministers themselves to be £8.6 billion.
“With the ultra-green car market still not fully fledged, the continued financial support will reassure car makers they are investing in an area that ministers are determined to see a success. Tucked away in the statement’s small print is a recommitment to the National Road Fund which will ring fence Vehicle Excise duty for spending on strategic roads from 2020.”

 

Simon Copeman, general sales and marketing manager at 3M, said: “3M is pleased that the government has prioritised Britain’s roads in its spending plans, as improved infrastructure will help to boost productivity, and so our economy, while making everybody’s lives easier.

“In recent years, local authorities have had to cope with shrinking budgets. We hope this commitment from the government will allow them to improve their road networks, and when doing so, we would encourage local authorities to look for the most durable solutions, from traffic signs and road markings to average speed cameras.”

 

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