Railways and shale gas to get Treasury boost

THE GOVERNMENT will today spell out its plans for £100bn worth of spending on big infrastructure projects over the course of the next parliament, promising huge investments in transport and energy and introducing proposals to kick start the UK’s anticipated shale gas boom.

However, last night it was revealed that High Speed 2 (HS2), the plan to introduce speedy rail travel from London Euston to the north, will cost £42.6bn, up from £34.5bn predicted in January, due to contingency funds.

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, will today publish Investing in Britain’s Future, which will detail infrastructure proposals from 2015. The plans will focus on big projects such as major roads, railways, low-carbon energy and broadband – areas designed to act as a catalyst for growth driven by the private sector.

Separately, the Department of Energy and Climate Change will announce plans to encourage shale gas exploration, expected to include compensation for communities that are near fracking sites. Osborne said tax and planning changes would support £100bn of investment in energy.

“We’re announcing the largest programme of investment in our roads for half a century… we’re committing to the largest investment in our railways since the Victorian age, and with the legislation before this House today, we should give the green light to HS2,” Osborne said. Plans for HS2 were passed last night, though 37 MPs rebelled after the increase in the project’s cost was revealed.

Alexander will also set out proposals for investing in broadband, next generation mobile networks, housing, flood defences and science.

“This will mean that Britain will spend on average more as a percentage of its national income on capital investment in this decade, despite the fact money is tight, than in the previous decade,” Osborne said.