National Infrastructure Commission chair (NIC) Sir John Armitt has urged the government to clarify how the proposed A303 Stonehenge tunnel project will be paid for.
Following chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget announcement that private finance initiative (PFI) and PF2 contracts will be abolished, Armitt has expressed concern over the Stonehenge tunnel and Lower Thames Crossing projects – both of which were due to be financed under such schemes.
Highways England has stressed that neither scheme rest solely on the PFI funding model.
However, Armitt has urged the government to clarify its position on “opportunities for private financing, which would free up public funds for other schemes”.
It claimed that government payments to privately funded infrastructure contractors will continue well into the 2040s, and that future payments will total £199bn, or an average of £7.7bn a year over the next 25 years – even if there are no future deals.
While welcoming the extra investment in road infrastructure, Armitt added that the “real test” will be during next year’s spending review.
He said: “Today’s Budget includes a number of welcome measures for infrastructure – but the real test will be next year’s Spending Review and, crucially, the National Infrastructure Strategy that the chancellor has promised.
“This strategy should bring together the roads funding from this Budget with longer-term funding for cities and projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2. And it should include access to full fibre broadband and greater use of renewable sources for our energy.
“These measures and more formed our National Infrastructure Assessment – the first of its kind in the UK. Now that the Budget has been announced, I would urge Philip Hammond to use his Spending Review and the planned Strategy to implement our recommendations in full.”
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