21 August 2020
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, has announced a new ‘Acceleration Unit’ to speed up transport infrastructure projects and build back better from Covid. The unit, along with a new team of non-Government specialists will report to the Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive, Darren Shirley.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB) said: “This is an interesting decision which may shape a new direction in the way UK transport is designed and delivered. Covid-19 has highlighted infrastructure deficiencies and therefore this new unit, may secure better opportunities to facilitate modal change.”
Shapps said, “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.”
The launch, which coincides with around £360m of investment to build back better from Covid-19 will more quickly deliver ‘vital rail and road upgrades that will create jobs, increase connectivity, and boost the economy.’
Shapps also announced investment in Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2), footbridges, overcrowded stations, upgrades on freight lines and signalling.
Welsh rail upgrades will also be delivered, including plans to upgrade Cardiff Central stations and upgraded signalling work on the 241-kilometre Cambrian line from Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli.
Rico Wojtulewicz, NFB Cymru policy lead and head of housing and planning for the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of NFB, said: “This is great news for Wales. North Wales in particular has seen too little investment and due to slower road networks, can be quite isolated from investment. Regional connectivity outside major cities is vital if we really are going to build back better, greener and faster.
It is also pleasing to see RIS2 improvements considered. It’s time to ensure cycle and bus lanes or gates are designed in to new roads. Strategic routes, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, must also be candidates for redesign. Rather than forcing rail passengers and freight to go into London first when wanting to cross the 1km river, we should unlock the Southern and Eastern regions with a train line running along the new crossing.”