Assessment of transport infrastructure project priorities needs to change to recognise more than just cost

Published at 08:30 AM on 03 September 2015

PwC/ Smith Institute Transport round tables: Connecting our cities and regions  

New and different assessment models are needed for considering whether large transport infrastructure projects go ahead that recognise their impact on the regions, jobs and growth.

Transport industry specialists, including leaders from local authorities and LEPs interviewed as part of a series of roundtables led by PwC and the Smith Institute said fairly assessing large transport infrastructure developments needed a new, more flexible and context specific approach. Doing so would recognise their transformational role in the UK economy. Failure to do so could risk leaving the UK at a competitive disadvantage. 

Participants said that existing approaches to appraising transport infrastructure had been useful when assessing marginal improvements to capacity that are funded by central government. But these methods are less suited when more transformational projects are planned, with the increasing demand for appraisals to consider impact on economic performance rather than solely costs, such as investments in London or the North East. The participants also called for more devolved transport decision making to ensure investment in an integrated and better connected transport network. 

Participants at the roundtables recommend a new approach to appraising schemes to take account of issues including: 

  • The wide range of different schemes being considered, particularly those with potentially transformational impacts on economic development, multiple regions, or sectors.
  • Increasing demand for appraisals to consider impact on economic performance rather than solely cost benefits.
  • Increasing focus on issues which relate to the environment and sustainability.

The views come as the government is expected to cede more transport powers to combined authorities, like Greater Manchester’s Combined Authority. The transfer of powers to other city-regions will be on a deal by deal basis and will now include a requirement for a directly elected mayor.  The new combined authorities and their Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) are also calling for more devolution of transport powers to city-regions on a similar basis to London.

Grant Klein, a transport sector Partner at PwC, comments:

“Transport is inextricably linked to economic growth across the UK, with a much wider impact than just getting people from a to b. It’s clear central government and the national transport bodies see transport devolution as part of the solution to improve intercity transport connectivity, and plan for capacity and upgrades. It’s a change in mind-set that needs a different conversation and new collaboration between local, regional and national transport bodies, in their assessment, delivery and operations of new transport services. 

“These new partnerships are not a substitute for sustained investment in the nation’s road and rail networks, but will help taxpayers get the most for their money by helping to  prioritise and address local issues and allow for the development of more integrated transport service” 

A major talking point at our roundtables was the need for integrated, multi-modal transport strategies which can properly link local and national road and rail networks. In many places transport services are too fragmented, in part due to the commissioning of services by different agencies. While HS2 and Crossrail were examples of major project progress, participants said more effort was required to ensure that connections were being made between different modes of transport and between different places across city-region boundaries. 

Paul Hackett, director of the Smith Institute said:

“We need a step-change in transport investment and a more joined-up and integrated city-to-city transport network.  Making the most of HS2 and other major transport schemes is part of the answer, but the view from transport professionals and other stakeholders is that more must be done to improve and connect local transport system – especially between the core cities”. 

Ends

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Contacts: Rowena Mearley, Media Relations Manager - Government & Public & Sector
T: 0207 213 4727 / 07841 563 180

Notes

1. The Government’s National Infrastructure Plan shows road traffic is set to rise by up to 57% between 2013 and 2040, and passenger miles on the rail network are set to increase by 46% between 2011 and 2033.

2. Transport is an area where the UK lags internationally, being ranked just 27th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-15 Global Competitiveness Index, and fall since 2011-12.

3. About the Smith Institute: The Smith Institute is an independent think tank which provides a high-level forum for thought leadership and debate on public policy and politics. It seeks to engage politicians, senior decision makers, practitioners, academia, opinion formers and commentators on promoting policies for a fairer society. www.smith-institute.org.uk T: @smith_institute

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About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details. © 2016 PwC. All rights reserved

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