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By Elizabeth Anderson Monday, 26 November 2012

'Slow lane' transport spending puts UK in jam

The UK is lagging behind when it comes to transport investment, the British Chambers of Commerce argues.

Britain’s roads and rails are the bugbear of many commuters. But according to the British Chambers of Commerce, it’s not just wasted time we should be worrying about. The tightening of money spent on improving Britain’s rail and road networks is leaving the UK behind our European neighbours and costing us billions of pounds in lost income, the business organisation warns.

The warning comes as the BCC updates on recommendations it made two years ago on infrastructure. Ahead of the general election in 2010, the BCC identified 13 key transport improvements, costing around £30bn. But the BCC says just three have been commissioned. A further two have some funding committed but the majority have been cancelled or delayed.

The three projects going ahead are:

·    Birmingham Motorway Box: introducing new methods to allow variable speed limits and use of the hard shoulder at peak times on the M5, M6, M40 and M42, with work due to be completed in spring 2014;

·    Forth Replacement Bridge: replacing the current road bridge with a motorway-standard two-lane crossing, to be completed by 2016;

·    London’s Crossrail: Work on the cross-London rail link is well under way and expected to be fully operational in 2019, improving capacity across the capital.

Projects put on hold include the proposed third runway at London’s Heathrow airport, the Cardiff-Newport M4 relief road scheme in Wales and the A14 road improvement scheme in East Anglia.

‘[Investment in transport infrastructure] creates short-term confidence, jobs in the medium term, and improves the UK’s competitiveness in the long term,’ the BCC’s Director of Policy Adam Marshall said. He called on the government to kickstart ‘crucial’ transport projects and put it higher as a spending priority.

The BCC isn’t the only lobby group to push for more transport improvements. The CBI has also called on George Osborne to boost infrastructure spending. In its annual infrastructure survey, the CBI found that 73% of British businesses didn’t foresee any improvements in Britain’s transport infrastructure in the next five years.

But Transport Minister Norman Baker defended the government’s stance, saying that making improvements to Britain’s transport network ‘is a top priority for us’.

‘We are confident that the approach we are taking will deliver the infrastructure the country needs for business to flourish,’ Baker said.

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