The spread of coronavirus has had an unprecedented effect on how and where we work, accelerating changes that were already underway on commuter networks. As businesses plan for a future return to the office, commuters now want more flexible greener travel options, with greater interoperability across services.
Whilst pledges of increased investment in transport infrastructure have been welcome, if government is to truly level-up connectivity across the country, it will need to update its approach to investment. As the CBI’s new report, in partnership with KPMG, ‘Connecting Communities’ lays out, this must start by government supporting regional decision makers to take a significantly more strategic approach to planning for, assessing, and delivering key infrastructure investments.
Three key issues government should tackle:
Uncertainty about long-term funding
For many years local authorities have struggled to draw up and then deliver coherent, long-term plans to build and maintain more integrated transport networks. With over 80% of the short-term funding made available by government over the last three years, requiring councils to put together competitive bids, there has been little resourcing available to draw up longer-term plans.
A fragmented project-by-project approach to appraisal
Government at all levels has failed to capture the full benefit of interacting investments in commuter networks. Commuter networks concern far more than just transport infrastructure – they depend on close integration of housing, employment, and other infrastructure. If the government plans on effecting transformational change on the economies of entire regions, it will need to take a more integrated approach to assessing investment in commuter networks.
Slow or ineffective delivery of transport investment
At a time of constrained budgets after the fiscal impact of coronavirus, the government needs to ensure that it delivers best value from its investments quickly. Moves to accelerate how the public sector brings investments in commuter networks to market can dramatically cut costs and ensure the benefits of projects are felt sooner in the regions that need them most.
What does the report recommend?
Businesses see the upcoming Spending Review as a golden opportunity for the government to embed these changes and ensure that the next five years see a step-change in commuter connectivity across the country.
Responding to business’ concerns, the ‘Connecting Communities’ report in our campaign to transform the commute for all, outlines a series of recommendations to government on how to rethink the way it invests in the nation’s commuter networks, including:
- Ten-year funding settlements for regional infrastructure, to enable strategic planning, as well as improved infrastructure maintenance
- Changes to the Green Book approach to project appraisal – focusing on whole programmes of work that can promote local growth and environmental sustainability in areas that need it most, rather than just the most prosperous
- A focus on driving delivery as well as increasing investment through improving planning capacity and capability within local authorities.
Looking ahead the CBI will continue to explore what steps are required to build commuter networks fit for the future, including exploring how we can decarbonise journeys and use investment in technology to build services around customers’ needs.
If you would like to discuss our work on commuting or other infrastructure projects, please contact Freddie Hopkinson.