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Fears that transport spending cuts will fund £500bn bank bail out

Engineers this week urged the government to avoid the temptation to cut transport spending as it tried to fund the £500bn bail out of the banking sector.

The bank rescue package last week took national debt above the Treasury’s favoured level of 40% of GDP sparking fears that public spending may have to be slashed after next year’s general election.

But the lead author of the ICE’s latest State of the Nation report on transport said investment in infrastructure was a "self-evident" solution to the damaging effects of the credit crunch. "If you stop investing in infrastructure, you lose the opportunity to develop in the longer term," said Merseytravel operations director Alan Stilwell.

"It is self-evident that the long-term benefits of projects outweigh their costs. This is true for a very long time into the future." Stillwell added that he thought Crossrail, at £16bn the largest single transport scheme on the horizon, would survive public spending cutbacks. But he said that some delays to its delivery were inevitable, in the current economic climate.

The ICE’s plea for government to maintain transport spending came as the UK fell 11 places in a global league table ranking the quality of infrastructure. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009, the UK’s infrastructure is ranked 24th, behind Barbados, Taiwan and Cyprus.

The UK is ranked particularly poorly for the quality of its port and airport infrastructure which ranked 30th and 27th respectively. Roads ranked 24th, rail 20th and electricity 18th.

The only infrastructure sector where the UK figures in the top five is in the availability of seat kilometres in its transport where it was third with 6.5M seat kilometres available per week.

The report says the best infrastructure is in Switzerland, Singapore, Germany, France and Finland.

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