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Osborne must keep the infrastructure tap switched on

Antony Oliver

As this week’s cover story clearly demonstrates, the UK and especially London, is undergoing an infrastructure bonanza.

King’s Cross station’s spectacular new concourse is long overdue and only the first stage in a much bigger plan to bring one of the capital’s premier main line stations into the 21st century. It is just one of the many new transport facilities being prepared and enhanced in time for the world’s arrival for the Olympic Games this summer.

At the heart of the transport experience will of course be St Pancras and Stratford stations but equally we have seen the Jubilee Line’s signalling upgraded, London Bridge rejuvenated beneath the Shard, new escalators at Victoria… the list goes on.

This week BAA also revealed a £15M revamp of its 15 year old Heathrow Express service with refurbished trains, new platform facilities and upgraded on-board information systems.

There is no question that enhanced transport systems in London will be one of the 2012 Games’ legacies.

But it is also clear that the infrastructure investment bonanza goes way beyond 2012, driving continued economic growth across the capital for decades to come.

There is strong evidence that investing in modern infrastructure really does stimulate regeneration. Hence the multi-billion pound investments underway at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Hence the multi-billion pound investments by London Underground across the capital. Hence the multi-million pound revamp of Victoria station which kicked off last year.

And this week we saw the launch of the first tunnel boring machine on the Crossrail project. Few around the capital will have failed to notice the scale of redevelopment already progressing at Paddington, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and other Crossrail station sites.

Meanwhile Arup has been appointed to mastermind the new Euston station as part of the High Speed 2 project. Again we see the opportunity to create enhanced passenger facilities and attract regeneration investment.

London is certainly a unique example. As the seat of the nation’s government and business activity and as a global financial centre, it is inevitably an attractive investment option. But scale aside, there is no reason similar economic returns will not flow from projects at other locations across the UK.

So as chancellor George Osborne prepares his budget this week he must be reminded that the critical driver for the nation’s coffers remains economic activity across the UK.

Wherever you live in the UK, the most important part of his Budget will be how - and how much - he intends to invest in enhancing infrastructure. History is witness to the fact that is always the wisest pound a nation can ever spend.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor

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