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NCE Live News Updates Wednesday 4 December 2013: National Infrastructure Plan update reveals A14 toll plan scrapped

The government has dropped controversial plans for tolling on the A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon, construction of which is planned to start in 2016; and in the US the driver of the crashed Metro train admits to dozing off.

2pm: And so, the National Infrastructure Plan update is out there ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement and here are the highlights:

Over £375bn of planned public and private sector infrastructure money is expected to be spent over the next 20 years.

The big story is government confirmation, as predicted below, that it has dropped controversial plans for tolling on the A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon, construction of which is planned to start in 2016. The £1.5bn scheme wil now be conventionally funded. It is a complete U-turn for a government which, in its first Spending Review in 2010 ruled the scheme to be unaffordable “in any future funding scenario”.

It has also:

  • Signed an agreement with Hitachi and Horizon to support the financing of the development of a new nuclear power station at Wylfa in North Wales through a UK guarantee, subject to final due diligence and ministerial approval.
  • Povided £50M for a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick Airport
  • Fund improvements to the A50 around Uttoxeter starting no later than 2015 to 2016
  • Confirmed the UK Guarantee has now been agreed for the £1bn Northern Line extension to Battersea
  • Announced a plan to form a new court for infrastructure to “avoid unnecessary delays in the planning process for major projects”
  • Said it will build on the Spending Round commitment of £2.3bn capital investment for flood defences by developing a new long-term plan, including naming key projects by Autumn Statement 2014
  • Planned to double the target for the sale of corporate and financial assets from £10bn to £20bn between 2014 and 2020, which could include the government’s shareholding in Eurostar

These announcements came alongside a pledge by six major insurers to collectively invest £25bn in UK infrastructure over the next five years.

The full updated National Infrastructure Plan can be read here.

The government also announced today a consultation into a draft National Policy Statement for National Transport networks.

Roads minister Robert Goodwill, said: “The public consultation being launched today invites views on the extent to which this National Policy Statement meets its aim of providing planning policy for decisions on the development of national networks”.

Reaction

Turner & Townsend infrastructure director Murray Rowden

“There can be no more false dawns. This spending plan must deliver. The first National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) was widely recognised as little more than a long wishlist of projects, with few details on how they would be paid for. This plan seems different.

“Three years on, the results of the first NIP have been mixed. UK infrastructure sector output shrank by 10% last year, but there has been an important rebalancing of the way major projects are funded.

“Previous efforts to cast pension funds as white knights proved overly optimistic, with a scheme designed to attract £20bn from the industry securing just £1bn in pledges. So today’s confirmation that the insurance industry is to invest £25bn over the next five years is a great achievement.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner

“It is clear that much of the infrastructure necessary to ensure energy security and renew our transport networks will need to be delivered by the private sector.

“As such it is vital that those who will be responsible for these projects are able to have access to suitable funding. For this reason, Ceca very much welcomes the announcement of support today for £25bn in the UK’s infrastructure from some of the country’s leading insurers.

“But we equally recognise that funding is only part of the picture, and this support will only come forward if there is a demonstration that projects are investable. For this reason, it is vital that the government maintains momentum to address all other barriers that currently stand in the way of project delivery.”

Commenting on the commitment to sign an agreement with Hitachi and Horizon to support the financing and development of a new nuclear power station at Wylfa in North Wales through a UK guarantee, Reisner said: “We have seen the boost to the industry that has arisen as a result of government support for the delivery of Hinkley Point C.

“The offer of a UK guarantee to the project will help this project get off the ground. However, we want to see a fleet of new reactors built, rather than a single project in isolation. Therefore today’s support for a Hitachi and Horizon new nuclear power station in North Wales is a welcome step to cementing a renaissance in civil nuclear power in the UK.”

On the announcement of the creation of a new court for infrastructure to avoid unnecessary delays in the planning process for major projects, Reisner said: “Too often schemes that could have been creating growth and employment throughout the UK have been bound up in delays due to legal issues. While safeguarding the ability to challenge projects, we hope that the new court will streamline the process, ensuring that good projects can rapidly move from development to delivery.”

Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin

“The announcement of an extra £25bn of capital from six major insurers gives confidence to business that the NIP is becoming the investment prospectus that can attract the private sector money that UK infrastructure needs. It is now crucial that government works out how best to distribute this financing to the most crucial projects in the NIP, and develop the longer term funding arrangements here.”

6.45am: Three of the stadiums being built for the Brazil 2014 World Cup will miss their December deadline for completion, it has been revealed.

Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Curitiba’s Arena da Baixada and Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians stadium are all now looking likely to miss the 31 December date.

In regard to the Arena Corinthians,Fifa said it was too early to provide a revised deadline for its completion because of the investigation and technical report into last week’s crane collapse at the site, which killed two site workers.

 

6.30am: Reuters is reporting that the driver of the New York train that derailed on Sunday told federal investigators he “zoned out” shortly before the crash, according to the driver’s labor union leader.

The seven-carriage train was traveling at 132km/h, almost three times the speed limit for the curved section of track where it crashed, investigators have said. The driver, William Rockefeller, 46, applied the brakes five seconds before it derailed.

The crash killed four and critically injured 11 on the Metro-North Hudson line that serves suburbs north of New York City.

On Tuesday, Rockefeller told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that “he nodded. He zoned out,” Anthony Bottalico, the general chairman of the driver’s labor union, the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, told Reuters.

 

1.30am: Ahead of today’s formal announcement surrounding its latest National Infrastructure Plan – in what will be the Treasury’s fourth annual update – interested parties have latched onto reports that plans for investment in the A14 road scheme have changed.

Business lobby group the CBI said that the expected news that a funding decision had finally been made on the A14 upgrade meant that the “essential” scheme could get underway sooner rather than later.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “After so much uncertainty, the news that a decision has been finally made on funding for the A14 means this essential upgrade will get off the ground sooner.

“This will come as nothing short of a relief for businesses given the importance of this trade route to link the port of Felixstowe to the rest of the country.”

The Campaign for Better Transport has pre-emptively welcomed reports that the government has abandoned its plans for a toll road on the A14.

Campaign for Better Transport roads and sustainable transport campaigner Sian Berry: “We welcome the government’s admission that toll roads won’t work. Private finance was a central plank in the government’s road building strategy and abandoning the A14 Toll shows this strategy is coming apart at the seams. This should signal an urgent rethink of other ineffective and counterproductive road proposals across the country.”


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