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Election candidates must heed infrastructure calls

Apologies. This week’s NCE is a little bit more political than we would like.

But it would be remiss of us not to share with you the more pertinent points in the political parties’ election manifestos - all launched with much fanfare over the last week or so.

And there is one thing that does instantly stand out - regardless of whether you are rooting for the pugilist standing in the blue, red, yellow, green or purple corner - there is an awful lot of infrastructure talk in there.

I think it’s pretty unheard of actually, and is an unquestionably clear sign of just how far up the agenda infrastructure - and its role in driving economic growth and aiding social inclusiveness - has raced.

Governments around the world are facing a universal demand for infrastructure development and renewal, with an estimated $40 trillion (£26.6 trillion) needing to be spent on global projects until 2030.


And to be fair, our now dissolved coalition government has taken a lead on putting infrastructure at the heart of its post-recession economic plans. The government that replaces it will do no different.

Just look at the big one - High Speed 2 (HS2). All main parties remain behind the £42bn scheme. The only party of potentially serious influence that would try and derail it is Ukip, which has plainly said it would scrap it as hugely costly and unnecessary. It seems Nigel Farage is right - Ukip is no longer a single issue party.

But HS2 and Ukip aside, infrastructure in its broadest sense is safe in the manifestos. Rather the devil is in the detail; the schemes around the margins that will be horse-traded around in coalition talks; the schemes residing in opposition strongholds that can be safely binned at no electoral cost.

We report on two such schemes this week - the A27 Arundel bypass and the A358 link from the A303 to the M5 at Taunton.

No chance of a Labour MP in either; so they are safe places for Labour to find savings to balance its manifesto books.

This is not intended as a party political broadcast for the Conservative Party; but Labour is playing a dangerous game here.OK, it has stressed that it “supports long-term plans for road investment” and that of the 127 schemes in Highways England’s strategy it supports 125.

But Labour’s tinkering does risk setting a dangerous precedent.

It’s hardly a great start for Highways England. The ink is barely dry on the Infrastructure Act and already the highways strategy is being reopened.

So, as politicians of all colours start banging on your doors in earnest, the challenge to you is to challenge them on the detail: just what are they prepared to sacrifice - and why? It’s time for us all to do our bit and make sure that the politicos know that infrastructure matters - and that tinkering will not go unnoticed.

  • Mark Hansford is NCE’s editor

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