Former transport secretary Lord Adonis says a new consensus among the main political parties on infrastructure projects makes him optimistic about Britain’s future.
The Labour peer was speaking at the ITM annual conference at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales. He said the coalition government had wasted its first two years of parliament, "pulling up the HS2 project by the roots" and cancelling billions of pounds of vital road-building programmes that were “hugely significant” to the UK economy.
But he said since the global financial crisis and subsequent stagnation, “there has been a growing realisation that serious investment in infrastructure is needed to build the UK economy for the medium and long term.” He said a “black cloud” over infrastructure projects was lifting, as schemes become unlocked following a reduction in “party divides and short-terminism.”
He cited the government establishing the independent Davies Commission on airport expansion in 2012, and the recent (April 2014) overwhelming vote in favour of the High Speed Rail bill – 452 for versus 41 against.
An important catalyst for this change, he argued, was the success of the 2012 Olympics. “There was a huge onus to deliver, on time and within reasonable budgets and to high quality specifications. And somewhat to our surprise, we did deliver – beyond expectations.”
“We were forced to take the Olympics outside party politics – and this helped produce a new spirit of consensus.”
He added that the new capacity and capabilities brought by the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 2 in June, plus the greater connectivity offered by Crossrail, together strengthen the case for runway expansion at Heathrow.