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Stop the transport cuts: it's down to you and I


It is continually astounding to see politicians unable to make any link between the amount of public money invested in the nation's public infrastructure and the amount spent on other public services.

I know I keep banging on about the need for proper government support for infrastructure in the UK but each week seems to bring another cast iron justification for NCE's Stop the Transport Cuts campaign.

On Monday, for example, we heard shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin set out the 'detail' of his plans for an economy under Conservative rule. The word 'detail' is of course used under caution as it is the Opposition's prerogative to be as vague as it likes right up to the election.

However, Letwin was clear on one issue - the key public spending areas would be safe.

There would be no cuts for education, health or pensioners.

He went on to say that a Tory government would clamp down on the civil service, defence and - surprise, surprise - transport.

All of which makes me sad. It just all seems so uninspiring. We have a government that talks big about the need to invest in public transport infrastructure but has not the nerve or the will to deliver on the difficult choices.

And the Opposition seems to positively support this approach.

Why are the Tories not fuming about the government's failure to deliver on its infrastructure promises? Instead Letwin is promising to build on this failure with real cuts in investment.

Once again it comes down to the same two key issues. First, engineers remain unable to present a convincing argument to persuade government of the long term benefits investment in decent modern infrastructure can deliver to the nation.

Secondly, there are just not enough engineers in positions of influence within the government and senior civil service.

So on the basis that doing anything about the latter is a tough, long term brief, we must focus on the former. And NCE will be working hard over the next few months to assemble the arguments to convince government that investment is worthwhile.

Which brings me back to my first observation. We must make it absolutely clear that there is a very tangible link between the condition of the nation's infrastructure and the amount that government spends and has to spend on other services.

We must make it clear that there are strong economic, social and environmental reasons for backing a decent modern infrastructure in the UK.

A decent modern infrastructure will boost wealth creation in the UK and help business to become more competitive: more wealth equals more tax revenue.

A decent modern infrastructure will also allow people to enjoy a better standard of living, to travel more easily, to live in better accommodation and so to live healthier lives.

A decent modern infrastructure will help to reduce pollution and create a more sustainable environment in which to live - again boosting the health of the nation but also securing its long term future.

All are concepts the average politician finds hard to understand and even harder to sell.

Which is why, as guardians of the infrastructure, we must focus as hard on explaining the issues as on solving the problems.

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