‘Acceleration Unit’ to fast-track new road and rail projects
A host of new road and rail projects – expected to include new smart motorways – are to get off the ground quicker under a new Department for Transport ‘Acceleration Unit’.
Due to be announced today by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the unit will speed up transport infrastructure projects, including vital rail and road upgrades.
It will be implemented in September 2020 and will directly accountable to the Transport Secretary and led by Darren Shirley, currently chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and formerly of Which? Magazine.
Grant Shapps said: “As Britain begins to get moving once again after four months of lockdown, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.
“We want to accelerate Britain’s recovery by investing in vital infrastructure that will help get businesses back on their feet, create jobs to replace those that have been lost and level up our country.
“The creation of our new Acceleration Unit and investment in our roads and railways will ensure we build back better, greener and faster in the future.”
Independent transport watchdog Transport Focus cautiously welcomed the news. Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build roads and railways that reflect the way we live and travel now and for better connections in future.
“To get Britain moving again it’s vital that the Government and the new Acceleration Unit listens and responds to transport users’ priorities and communicates its plans to improve services.
“The acid test of all these changes will be when users experience a more attractive transport network. That includes improved reliability and services that are value for money.”
The launch of the new unit coincides with around £360m of investment to “build back better” from Covid-19.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “This £360m investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling-up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow.”
Elizabeth De Jong, policy director at Logistics UK’s (formerly the FTA), said: “The logistics sector relies on robust transport connections across the country to ensure the strength and resilience of the supply chain, and this funding announcement is a positive step which will assist business to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of activity and enhance the UK’s competitiveness.”
The Transport Secretary has also unveiled a host of further road and rail investments while Highways England will also today launch its Strategic Business Plan and Delivery Plan, both for 2020-2025. The two documents will set out how the company will take forward the plans set out in the Government’s RIS2 strategy to improve England’s road network. The Delivery Plan will confirm the delivery schedule for road upgrades and schemes the Government will be funding over the next five years.
The plans include details of plans for £27.4bn investment in the strategic road network across the country that will see the agency deliver £14bn of projects improving the quality, capacity and safety of the motorways and major A roads. Almost £11bn will go into improving every day journeys by repairing and replacing parts of the network.