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Call for Evidence

Major transport infrastructure projects: appraisal and delivery

The UK Government has committed to spending on major infrastructure to boost the economy and “level up” across regions and nations. Following the 2019 General Election, the Government announced large investment in infrastructure, including on transport projects such as road and rail. The 2020 Budget promised £640bn of investment for projects across the UK to “drive growth and level up economic opportunity”. In Spring 2020 the Chancellor announced a further £5bn infrastructure investment to support economic regeneration after the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy, published in November 2020, likewise committed billions of pounds of investment in transport infrastructure, particularly on road and rail projects.

Transport infrastructure currently dominates infrastructure sector construction, with around 57% of total output for 2019. The Department for Transport is thus a key Government department in appraising, managing and delivering transport infrastructure projects. It has oversight for projects totalling billions of pounds of public money, including Crossrail, High Speed Two, and the Road Investment Strategy. In September 2020, the Department had 24 projects on the Government Major Projects Portfolio with estimated total forecast costs of approximately £167 billion (the second largest portfolio behind the Ministry of Defence). Some major transport projects, both past and present, have seen dramatic cost increases from the initial estimates. Other approved projects have stalled, such as the third runway at Heathrow Airport.

The coronavirus pandemic, the changes it has brought about to travel and communication, and the likely consequent future pressures on public spending, has raised questions about the continued usefulness and cost-effectiveness of some major transport projects.

Infrastructure is also a major contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Government has a legal commitment to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In some cases the infrastructure currently under development will take decades to deliver and will be operational well beyond 2050. The infrastructure we plan and deliver today therefore needs to be consistent with the net-zero target.

The Government is currently undertaking a review of the Green Book—the government’s guidance on best-practice appraisal—to ensure that infrastructure investment “spreads opportunity across the UK”. 

Our call for evidence

The Transport Committee will hold an inquiry into the appraisal and delivery of major transport infrastructure projects to better understand what lessons can be learned and applied. We would welcome written evidence on some, or all, of the following matters:

Transport infrastructure strategy and priorities 

  • The Government’s transport infrastructure priorities, including those set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy; 
  • the contribution transport infrastructure can make to the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda and the economic growth of the UK’s towns, cities and regions outside London; 
  • to what extent the coronavirus pandemic and its longer-term implications affects the necessity and cost-effectiveness of current and future major transport infrastructure projects; 
  • how major transport projects can be delivered while ensuring the Government meets its decarbonisation 2050 net-zero targets;  

Appraisal and funding of transport infrastructure  

  • The effectiveness of the Government’s decision-making and appraisal processes for transport infrastructure projects and any changes required to the ‘Green Book’; 

Oversight, accountability and governance of transport infrastructure projects 

  • The Government’s role in the delivery of major transport infrastructure projects, including whether the Department for Transport has sufficient skills and expertise to oversee the successful delivery of transport infrastructure;
  • the relationship between the DfT and other Government departments and agencies, devolved administrations, and the private sector, in delivering major infrastructure projects; 

Factors influencing the cost of transport infrastructure in the UK  

  • The reasons for continual high costs of major transport infrastructure projects, both past and present, and whether projects could potentially be delivered in a more cost-effective manner; 
  • what lessons can be learned from other countries in the delivery of major transport infrastructure projects; 

Transport infrastructure capacity and skills  

  • the extent to which there is enough capacity and the right skills within the UK to deliver the Government’s transport infrastructure plans, and options to help address shortages in transport infrastructure skills. 

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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