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Inquiry launch: Major transport infrastructure projects: appraisal and delivery

4 December 2020

2020 has seen billions of pounds of investment committed to the UK’s transport infrastructure. As more than half of infrastructure sector construction involves transport projects, the Department for Transport is a key Government department in appraising, managing and delivering transport infrastructure projects.

Along with Crossrail, High Speed Two and the Road Investment Strategy, the Department for Transport has a further 24 projects on the Government’s Major Projects Portfolio. Some have seen dramatic cost increases from their initial estimates and some have stalled, such as the third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Today, the Transport Committee announces a new inquiry into the appraisal and delivery of UK major transport infrastructure projects to better understand what lessons can be learned and applied. 

The inquiry will consider transport infrastructure strategy and priorities; the appraisal and funding of transport infrastructure; oversight, accountability and governance of transport infrastructure projects; factors influencing the cost and capacity and skills required to deliver the infrastructure plans.

The extent to which the coronavirus pandemic and its longer-term implications will affect the necessity and cost-effectiveness of current and future major transport infrastructure projects will factor in the Committee’s work. The Government also has a legal commitment to meet net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and infrastructure is a major contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:

“A vast amount of spending has been promised by the Government to boost the economy and ‘level up’ across regions and nations. The 2020 budget promised £640bn of investment for projects across the UK, boosted by a further £5bn to support economic regeneration after the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, the 2020 Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy committed billions of pounds of investment in transport infrastructure, and particularly, road and rail projects.

“The hefty pricetag on these transport infrastructure projects brings an equally hefty responsibility on the Department for Transport to ensure the money is spent fairly and projects are managed and delivered well. This work will be set against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic which has raised questions about the continued value of some major transport projects. The Government is also reviewing its guidance on best-practice appraisal, known as the Green Book.

“Given the scale of the funding and the breadth of the projects, this could be a time of tremendous opportunity for the Department for Transport. The Transport Committee is keen to glean an insight to Government thinking and practice on what could be a new era for transport infrastructure - if delivered well.”

The Transport Committee is calling for written evidence on all or some of the following terms of reference. The closing date is January 15, 2021.

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.

Further information

Image: Department for Transport via Flickr