Transport infrastructure represents a central part of Scotland’s economic investment programme, and regardless of whether Scotland gains independence following the referendum later this year, infrastructure investment remains vital.
In 2011 the Scottish Government set out its Infrastructure and Investment Plan which outlines plans for up to £60bn of spending until 2030 with programmes including the dualling of the A9, the expansion of the M8, the Queensferry Crossing and the re-tendering of the ScotRail train franchises. Scotland is going through something of a transport infrastructure renaissance, which is essential for the growth of its economy.
What is essential for economic development is not so much the level of financial commitment to funding infrastructure, but the political will to get it built quickly. In England we see the likes of Crossrail and High Speed 2 (HS2) progressing through their respective construction and legislative milestones – with HS2 only last month receiving its Second Reading in Parliament. Although it is good to see these projects progressing well, follow on programmes take an incredibly long time, often decades, from inception to construction. We are currently no further forward in the aviation debate and once Crossrail is completed, we will require Crossrail 2 just to keep up with rapid population growth in the capital.
Turning political will into construction on the ground is essential. It is widely acknowledged that the UK needs infrastructure investment to support our own economic growth and also to keep us competitive on the global stage. Sir John Armitt produced a valuable set of recommendations earlier this year, proposing the establishment of an independent National Infrastructure Commission. This commission would take a long term view of infrastructure needs and work across the Parliamentary cycles to support a consistent strategic approach. It is important that these proposals are not lost.
As part of the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure and Investment Plan, there is a strong commitment to upgrade its road network, of which the A9 dualling is a key part. As a major trunk road connecting key parts of the country together, this project is of great strategic importance to Scotland’s economic development.The announcement last month by Transport Scotland that the first design and supervision contract for the A9 dualling programme had been awarded to the CH2M Hill Fairhurst Joint Venture is a timely reminder of this commitment. The A9 dualling programme is a milestone project and is the largest transport project, by cost, in Scotland’s history. With an estimated £3bn price tag it is clear that Scotland is taking its infrastructure needs seriously.
By investing in the dualling of the A9, amongst other projects, Transport Scotland is leading by example in developing Scotland’s transport infrastructure. An important part of this is the investment in dedicated training and apprenticeship schemes for young people, such as the “Academy9” employment and educational legacy programme which is being implemented as part of the A9 contract.This approach not only addresses the transport needs of today but also enables us to train future generations of engineers to deliver the infrastructure of tomorrow.
- James Rowntree is managing director of infrastructure (Europe) at CH2M Hill