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Transport spending : keep up the pressure


Summer has arrived. As you wind towards the holiday season, ponder how critical the next four to six weeks will be for the future of UK civil engineering.

The government has key decisions to make on public spending, the structure of the rail industry and transport spending, the results of which could lift your industry out of the mire of confusion and delay - or not.

All around the industry I hear civil engineers voicing frustration over their inability to get on with vital infrastructure schemes. Across the nation they are eager to get stuck into road and rail improvements, flood relief schemes, regeneration projects, power supply upgrades or environmental protection programmes.

Yet Chancellor Gordon Brown's obsession with public spending control - or perhaps simply the government's inability to make a difficult decision - is killing the industry with frustration.

The situation must change. In the next six weeks we will see the rail industry review, the comprehensive spending review and the new ten year transport plan published, and with them we will see the government presented with a gold plated opportunity to deliver.

Without doubt, the government has had ample opportunity to get to grips with the nation's infrastructure needs over the last seven years.

Whether transport, energy, water supply or regeneration, the problems are clear.

When we launched our 'Stop the transport cuts' campaign at the start of the year we had several aims. One of these, of course, was to highlight some quick wins to help persuade the government and the Treasury to press ahead with vital transport schemes that for too long have sat gathering dust.

It is gratifying to know that Brown has since stated publicly that transport spending is safe in his July spending review.

But we are far from celebrating success on this basis alone.

First, I would not be so bold as to presume that our small campaign had anything but a miniscule part in Brown's decision making - if as much as that. There are hundreds of lobby groups firing information into government all the time and certainly many closer to the ear of power.

Besides, his single statement does not guarantee anything specific in July. Far from it. Giving transport schemes the green light is one thing - actual spending now is very much another.

So we clearly still have much work to do to press home the message that public investment in infrastructure reaps massive benefit for the whole nation.

One of the prime aims of NCE's campaign has been to provide the information and facts to stimulate discussion within and beyond the profession about the nation's transport needs. After all, if civil engineers are not talking about, and demanding, increased and immediate spending on transport, why should politicians?

It is vital that we all create a fuss. We know that with government support, civil engineers have the power to transform the UK. We just need to tell more people about these solutions.

So spread the word. Use the information in NCE to pass on some facts about transport in the UK. The more people that know about the difference we can make the better; and the more likely that government will - eventually - be persuaded.

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