The Government deserves credit for protecting capital investment in transport infrastructure during a period of economic austerity. On railways we have as close as you can get to "predict and provide", with an ambitious list of projects that Network Rail is grappling with, not to mention the exciting progress of HS2. On the roads side, Highways England is moving into a higher gear as it gets ready to deliver what their chief executive has called "the largest road building programme since the Romans". But Professor Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail and Road, raised some searching questions at the Transport Times Infrastructure Summit on how all this is going to be paid for.
Prof Glaister contrasted rail and road investment, which is funded primarily by the Government, with the other utilities such as water and electricity (and in the transport sector ports and airports), where investment is paid for by the private sector through financing deals. The utilities have a revenue stream which they can borrow against to finance investment, such as water rates, electricity charges and landing charges at airports. As a result there is much more certainty and continuity around investment, not to mention a more direct correlation between who pays and who benefits. In contrast road and rail investment is at the mercy of the Treasury.
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