Transport secretary reiterated the case for £55bn HS2 project

 

Brexit

 

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has reiterated the importance of continuing to invest in transport infrastructure, following the economic and political uncertainty created by the vote to leave the European Union.

Speaking at last week’s National Infrastructure Forum event in London, he acknowledged that the UK faced a period of “adjustment: economic, political, social”.

However, he said infrastructure spending must continue to play a vital part in strengthening the UK’s economy “as we face up to the enormity of our task” in tackling the challenges created by Brexit. “Investment in the long term infrastructure we need, has become more important, not less.”

McLoughlin said there were lessons to be learned in how to address the economic uncertainty created by the referendum from George Osborne’s decision to continue with Crossrail following his appointment as chancellor in 2010. At a time of economic turmoil following the banking crisis, one of the first recommendations on his desk was to cancel the £16bn project.

“The argument was clear: Our economy is in crisis and Crossrail will cost billions,” McLoughlin recalled. “Thank goodness the chancellor saw it differently.

“Yes, we could have used the Crossrail funding to pay down our [national] debt. But diverting that investment would only create new problems down the line. The economic boost and extra capacity that Crossrail is bringing is badly needed. And backing out would’ve shown the short-termism that got us into an economic mess in the first place. Now no one’s arguing that we shouldn’t have done it.”

Reiterating the case for the £55bn HS2 project, McLoughlin said: “HS2 will rebalance our economy and generate colossal benefits for the supply chain.”

He also said that transport spending would rise 50% during the government’s term in office as planned “because those who control the budgets know exactly how vital this programme is”.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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