Infrastructure plan met with cautious support

 
Kate McCann
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THE GOVERNMENT’S national infrastructure plan received mixed reactions yesterday, as proposals for over £375bn worth of projects were announced by chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The document sets out the UK’s infrastructure needs and how to address them. It includes detail on the government’s plan to increase money raised through the sale of its corporate assets from £10bn to £20bn between 2014 and 2020.

Included in these assets is the UK’s 40 per cent stake in Eurostar, which the Treasury says could be sold, depending on the outcome of a value for money assessment. Other assets could also be up for sale.

The report received a cautious welcome, with head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, Richard Threlfall, praising ministers for putting infrastructure at the top of the agenda. “However, we need to put this figure into perspective,” he added. “It is less than 10 per cent of the total investment needed, and it remains to be seen how quickly, and to what level, it is invested in actual projects.”

The infrastructure document also sets out plans not to introduce a toll on the A14. Responding to what he called a very vocal consultation, Danny Alexander said the government would fully fund the extra 20 per cent cost of building the new road, which was expected to have been raised through tolls.

The move was hailed as a short-sighted political crowd-pleaser ahead of the Autumn Statement later today by Tony Travers, visiting professor at the London School of Economics.

He said: “The unwillingness of successive governments to consider toll roads is another nail in the coffin for the idea of any substantial expansion of the British road system via tolls. It’s clearly a political decision. It’s extremely difficult to imagine substantial private investment in national public infrastructure until the government finds a way of creating projects in which it is easy to invest.”

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