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Autumn Budget 2018: An engineering perspective
Ahead of Monday’s Autumn Budget, there was much speculation about the promises Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, would make in his statement. We can now report that a significant investment into UK roads, railways, research and digital infrastructure that will “power this country in the 21st century” has been announced.
If you haven’t had time to listen to Philip Hammond’s hour-long speech or browse through the 86-page red Budget book, read on for a summary of what the 2018 Autumn Budget means for the UK engineering industry and the people who work within it.
New funding for UK highways
- Highways England is to receive £28.8 billion of funding to support major road upgrades between 2020 and 2025, with an extra £3.5 billion being made available to councils for important local routes.
- £420 million is to be made available to local highway authorities to tackle pot holes, carry out bridge and tunnel and other minor works in this financial year.
- Councils in England will be given an additional £150 million to improve traffic hotspots, such as road junctions and roundabouts, on local roads over two years from 2021.
Director of Highways and Transportation Planning at Matchtech, Joe Wilson, comments:
“It’s excellent news for the highways industry that central government is investing in the future. A £30 billion investment will reassure the industry, reignite the passionate workforce and drive the projects forward. We’ve already seen a huge number of candidates move from other industries to work on major highways projects, specifically Smart Motorways, but this is only going to help the future generation as well.
The market will be embracing technology more and more moving forward and we’re excited to see how the skillsets of the future will be changing based on new demands for the roads.”
Modernising UK transport
- The Transforming Cities Fund is to be extended by £680 million to £2.4 billion to support local and “sustainable” modes of transport including new buses, trams and cycling routes and rail.
- £90 million has been set aside to trial next-generation methods of transport, such as self-driving shuttles and electric bikes, with the creation of new “future mobility zones” in three city regions over three years from 2019.
- A further £37 million will support the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail, building on £300 million already committed to ensure HS2 infrastructure can accommodate future potential Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Engine Rail services.
- A new East West Rail company has been established to accelerate the delivery of the central railway section between Cambridge and Bedford. The government is providing a further £20 million to develop a strategic outline business case for the railway. This will explore which routes best support the government’s vision to unlock up to one million new homes by 2050.
Lead recruitment consultant for Rail Design at Matchtech, Edward Murison, comments:
“We’re happy to see the continued spending from the government on railway infrastructure, especially with a more geographically-even spread of projects – not the historic Hub and Spoke situation around London. However, there is still lots to be done and if the government is really looking to improve the railways and rail infrastructure to the level that is desired, it will need to be a continued priority over the coming years.
“Maintenance and upgrades to Network Rail and Transport for London, and the introduction of Crossrail 2, CP6, and trams in new cities are all projects that, with an increasing population, are going to be vital to the ongoing success of our major business cities and hubs.”
Building new homes and reviving town centres
- An extra £500 million will be invested into the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which should help build 650,000 more homes. The government has also struck deals with nine housing associations to deliver 13,000 homes across England.
- A Future High Streets Fund will invest £675 million in improvements to town centre infrastructure; helping reduce congestion, supporting redevelopment and improving access to high streets and enabling houses and workspaces to be created.
Buildings recruitment specialist, Stuart Minchin, comments:
“This announcement is a positive result for employment opportunities at all levels within the housing sector. However it will present challenges for construction companies looking to hire in an already skills-short environment. Technical Managers and Technical Directors are already in high demand and salaries are reflecting this.”
“The construction industry needs to put an emphasis on developing the UK’s home-grown talent to ensure it can deliver on these proposed plans in a post-Brexit world by focusing on apprenticeships and bringing more young people into the construction sector.”
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