By Chris Tyerman
For most of us, when we hear infrastructure, we often think of mega projects such as Crossrail, HS2, Hinkley Point, or Heathrow’s third runway. That isn’t surprising, national projects are undeniably important as arteries for industry and powerhouses of growth.
Most transport infrastructure of course, isn’t national, or even regional in scope; it’s local, it’s what connects you to your family, your job, your shops and your local services. Ultimately, it’s about communities. While national transportation infrastructure keeps us connected with the world, local transportation infrastructure keeps us connected with our children, our grandparents, our doctors and our schools.
However, we mustn’t forget that transportation infrastructure is also about supporting people. Never has this been more obvious than during the COVID-19 pandemic. We may have taken for granted the roads that connect homes with hospitals and the bridges that connect communities, but who can deny the importance of keeping connected to those closest to us?
As this year progresses, we must remember that not only is local transportation infrastructure the foundation of our social ties, but it’s also at the heart of economic regeneration. Locally managed roads make up 98% of the UK’s network and are used in almost every journey from the daily commute to the school drop-off to the weekly shopping delivery. Equally, around 40% of the UK population live within the local area where they were born, which means that for many of us, our financial wellbeing depends wholly on the quality and reliability of our local transportation infrastructure.
Although they will never be as glamorous as the mega projects, a new bypass or junction improvements have a significant positive impact on local and regional economies, ensuring vital resources reach every corner of the nation, reliably and safely. Local transportation infrastructure investment supports local economies in many ways; there can be opportunities to engage local skilled workforces or provide apprentices with experience in complex projects and of course, they provide stimulus during construction and a long-term legacy for economic growth. From a commercial perspective, local transportation infrastructure projects are less resource intensive – especially in terms of bidding and design – provide tangible benefits quicker and are generally lower risk, with the benefit of a quicker turnaround.
Ensuring sufficient investment in transportation infrastructure is vitally important for the country’s growth. That’s why we welcomed the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy and its emphasis on levelling-up projects, including a new £4.8 billion ‘Levelling Up Fund’ that will invest in local transportation infrastructure in England. The Government’s promise to target investment “in the immediate-term …at smaller local schemes to upgrade existing infrastructure” should be seen as an opportunity for the industry to apply their knowledge and skillsets to previously under-resourced regions and areas of the country that have suffered historic under investment. In last year’s budget the Government announced that over the next five years £27 billion will be spent on motorways and other arterial roads, £2.5bn will be available to fix potholes and resurface roads in England and spending on flood defences will be doubled to £5.2bn.
The industry should also welcome the newly announced UK Infrastructure Bank headquartered in Leeds, the Bank (with £12 billion of equity and debt capital) will partner with the private sector and local government to increase infrastructure investment and promote economic growth across the country.
At Tilbury Douglas, we are proud of our commitment and record delivering local transportation schemes up and down the country.
While we have worked on major projects for both the public and private sectors over the past year, we never forget that local transportation infrastructure is at the core of what we do. Whether that’s our work on frameworks with Highways England, water supply or sewerage improvements with our major water customers, or our countless projects with local authorities, it’s what we do best and we’re proud to be known for that.
As 2021 progresses, let us not forget the importance of strong ties to those closest to us and ensuring our local networks are built back stronger than ever, my view is that we can always build a better future together!
Chris Tyerman is Managing Director for Infrastructure at Tilbury Douglas