Wednesday 4 December 2013

UK Infrastructure - Admission of failure by Omission

So with the Autumn statement now being heavily trailed in the media by the Government, we can see the shape of the current Government thinking. Little in the way of tax incentives to people and instead some more promises of tax cuts to business; and today a huge fanfare about increasing infrastructure spend.

Now call me a cynic, but Government are elected for 5 years so any claims about billions in spending 17 years from now are to be taken with a large pinch of salt. However, a real failure of the UK political system is the inability of Labour and Tories to agree on long-term infrastructure policies on the basis that they should also oppose one another.

Even today the marks can be seen in these announcements. What is missing is more telling than what is discussed. For example there is a small upgrade to Gatwick Airport railway station, but no runway for Gatwick; in fact no extra airport capacity at all.

Even on the railways there is limited support in the sens that HS2 will suck investment to it. Then there are a myriad of promises surrounding the single new nuclear plant - where are the other 6 we need?

Where are the gas fired plants we need to balance the base load against unreliable offshore wind and the closing of old coal stations?

Where are the new motorways we need to connect the fast growing population of the Country?

The Government has managed to persuade Insurance companies to put up £25 billion and this is to be welcomed. But the really big decisions, HS2 apart, are still being ducked, as they have political impacts which are unfavourable and will be exploited by the opposition. It's a great shame they can't ever seem to work together for the good of the Country.


DJK said...

Indeed, it's depressing.

The announcement yesterday that the Chinese have offered to build HS2 shows that we have been reduced to the status of a tinpot African country where the Chinese build a railway in return for a 50-year concession. That, and the other news story from the China visit, that Jaguar Land Rover would offshore some production to China tells us everything about how useless Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the public school know-nothings are.

Nick Drew said...

let's be charitable for a second, suspend disbelief and assume (as I would dearly love to do) that all this government 'action' does indeed catalyse, stimulate and generally encourage genuine economic activity

then WTF weren't they doing it 3 years ago ?!

they have culpably been wasting precious time they just don't have

now - back to the cynicism ... last time I went through Gatwick (this week) that new station extension was 75% complete already

bloody spin!

rwendland said...

So ND, could a cynic think the govt statement "provide a further £50 million for a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick Airport" simply means the project budget is over-running, and they need more cash?

I see that the first item of the govt press release is the agreement for govt finance of Hitachi's nuclear power station at Wylfa. The nuc lobby is on a roll. I'm really puzzled how the govt is going to say no fairly to all the other nuc companies hoping to build in the UK at the current subsidised CfD price.

And smiling at the Greepeace statement welcoming cuts: "Today’s cuts to onshore wind and solar support schemes show how quickly the cost of clean energy technologies are falling. ... Given the increasing affordability of these renewable energy sources, it’s right ministers should now put emphasis onto helping drive down the cost of offshore wind so that the UK can reap the rewards of new turbine factories and thousands of new jobs."


rwendland said...

When you look at the spreadsheet, you find that it's largely an accumulation of already committed to spending.

58% of all the spending is on Energy, and 94% of that electricity related. 6% of the energy spending is long, long ago committed spending on Nuclear Decommissioning, on mostly our old Magnox and Sellafield sites.

Roads amount to 9% of all spending. Amazingly transport in London + Crossrail amounts to 7% of all the spending, almost as much as rail in the rest of the UK (8%) other than HS2 (6.4%). Airports get 1.7% of all the spending, with Heathrow written down for near $4 billion of future spending (not sure what).

James Higham said...

However, a real failure of the UK political system is the inability of Labour and Tories to agree on long-term infrastructure policies on the basis that they should also oppose one another.

Absolutely ... and that adversarial system also dominates the judiciary, with similar effects.