Dr Robin Hickman, reader in transport planning and the city at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, says Yes.
Large-scale infrastructure projects involve substantial economic, environmental and social impact – affecting present and future generations. Projects can cost billions and affect people and the environment in many different ways. We have a problem in developing infrastructure projects in an effective manner. We appraise them as if all costs and benefits can be calculated, using simplistic cost-benefit analysis. Yet major infrastructure projects are complex, many impacts are indirect, emerge over years, and cannot be effectively quantified. There is broad discontent with the process of infrastructure development – people do not believe the forecast demand numbers, the claims on economic impact, and fear that costs will escalate. The process takes too long. But this is not a case against HS2, or other projects. It is a case for a substantial revision of infrastructure appraisal methods – where different views can be taken into account, and a wide-ranging debate to decide which projects are best suited to meet policy goals.
David Leam, infrastructure director of London First, says No.
Ignore the doom-mongers and glass-half-empty pessimists. The fact is that Britain today is getting more right than wrong when it comes to major infrastructure planning and delivery. Just look at London. Take King’s Cross St Pancras – transformed in little over a decade from public dosshouse to flourishing new community and gateway to Europe. Or Stratford, gliding from wooden spoon to Olympic gold with the grace of Mo Farah. Or Crossrail, burrowing away underneath our feet – on time and on budget for opening from 2018. Or the new Tideway “supersewer”, reimagining Bazalgette’s Victorian genius for a modern age. Sure, not all is perfect. Our shameful dallying on airports expansion is the toast of our rivals in Paris and Amsterdam, while our inability to agree a solution to Britain’s energy needs continues to confound belief. But let’s not get consumed with gloom. Compared with the turn of the century, Britain – and London in particular – can in many areas now hold its head up high.