Magazine article Public Finance

HS2 Chief Predicts Transport Plan Will Bring Private Money

Magazine article Public Finance

HS2 Chief Predicts Transport Plan Will Bring Private Money

Article excerpt

High Speed 2 rail chief Sir David Higgins has raised the prospect of increased private investment in the UK's transport system, as part of a 30-year government plan to develop economically vital connectivity.

Speaking to Public Finance, Higgins, who chairs the government-owned company developing the line, said a national transport strategy is needed to avoid the 'stop-start' investment in rail, road and other infrastructure of recent decades.

He pointed out that other countries have long-term plans to develop economic infrastructure, but in the UK funding is provided on an ad hoc basis for individual projects. That funding pattern extends to HS2, which will run from London to Birmingham and, later, on to Manchester and Leeds.

HS2 Limited will need to negotiate with the new government after next May's election to secure funding from the Spending Review, expected next year, as well as working towards indicative settlements until 2025, Higgins said.

'We don't have a national transport strategy, we have a budgeting process - a high-level output specification which comes through to control periods [fouryear funding deals with agreed projects] for Network Rail,' he told PF. 'The Highways Agency don't have that, they have an annual budget.'

In his latest report for government, Rebalancing Britain: From HS2 towards a national transport strategy, Higgins called for the One North plan, developed by five northern cities to improve the connectivity of the region, to be built into a government-backed transport plan. Improved connectivity on key trans-Pennine routes would form part of a more strategic approach to transport.

T used the example of the highways and having had a plan from 1938 about how the highways are goingto work, so it makes sense to have a plan for railways. And if you do have a plan, that means that the public can understand where everything fits together.

'It's actually much more efficient if you have a long-term plan. Manufacturers will base themselves here, skills will develop, when you can say this is what we're goingto do for the next 30 years,' he told PF.

'We can't have the luxury of not having a proper infrastructure plan - we don't want insufficient broadband or energy generation capacity or distribution or transport to hold the country back. …

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