Government reaffirms commitment to infrastructure investment
Wed 25 Sep 2013
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has explained the government's infrastructure programme and stated that the High Speed 2 (HS2) project, along with other transport schemes backed by the coalition government, are essential for the country's long-term economic stability.
Speaking at a transport conference hosted by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London, Mr Alexander compared the comments that were made in parliament in 1987 regarding the building of the Channel Tunnel to the current debate over HS2. He pointed out that although many people believed that the Tunnel project was a mistake, 26 years later, it carries 300 million passengers and 250 million tonnes of freight annually.
Mr Alexander added that the government is "fully committed" to the plan for improving the country's infrastructure and is confident that most people are happy for the government to make a long-term investment in transport - which will cover HS2, as well as station and platform upgrades, converting all rail lines to electric and improving roads.
As the minister who oversees public spending, Mr Alexander admitted that the cost of these projects was high - estimated at £70 billion over the next parliament. He also recognised that this level of spending, which is more than the country has seen in several decades, comes at a time when the country is trying to reduce its budget deficit.
However, he maintained that a modern transport network is essential if the UK is to build a successful economy in the 21st century. He also pointed out that, while the project would have far-reaching long-term benefits, it would also be advantageous in the short-term, as it would create jobs in planning, design and construction.
For example, he said that 500 jobs were being created during the construction phase of the Mersey Gateway Bridge, and that during the peak of the redevelopment at King's Cross Station in central London, more than 1,000 jobs were created. In addition, Mr Alexander pointed out that once the projects were completed, additional jobs would become available. The first phase of HS2 would support about 40,000 people, he claimed.
Mr Alexander concluded by reassuring attendees that the government is committed to moving forward with these projects, not "out of vanity or pride or pig-headedness", but because it is what he believes the country - and the economy - needs.
For further information on any of the points raised in this article please contact our Transport and Infrastructure Team
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