Grayling urged to deliver on transport

Pressure is mounting on new Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (pictured) to make swift and decisive decisions over areas of major transport policy.

The new faces at the top of Government have been given 100 days by leading sector commentators to rule on whether Heathrow should expand, to fully commit to High Speed 2 and maintain existing spending plans for roads and railways.

“Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union international connectivity will become even more important for the British economy,” said Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive Alasdair Reisner. “This is a clear opportunity to make a decision on airport expansion and demonstrate to the world that the UK is open for business.

“At the same time the Government must provide certainty on other elements of the country’s infrastructure investment pipeline. After three weeks of uncertainty the Government must hit the ground running and commit to a bold infrastructure agenda.”

Accountancy firm EY’s head of infrastructure corporate finance Manish Gupta added: “Making a decision on airport capacity in the South East is likely to be the number one priority. Following the Davies Commission report the facts are on the table and businesses will be expecting the new Prime Minister to make the call as soon as possible.”

However a Government statement published this week made it clear that an announcement on airport capacity would not be made before Parliament's summer recess. The statement, in response to recommendations made by the Transport Select Committee in the spring, said that “any announcement on airport capacity would need to be made when the House is in session and is likely to be in October at the earliest”.

Manish Gupta added: “Businesses would also like to see the Prime Minister championing High Speed 2 which will be crucial in helping to rebalance the economy.” Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph called on the new Transport Secretary to focus on everyday transport rather than big infrastructure projects. “To meet the Prime Minister's emphasis on ordinary families, more focus needs to be on everyday transport that people rely on, meaning investing in more rather than fewer bus services, tackling the £12Bn backlog in local road maintenance and potholes and simplifying and reducing rail fares,” he said.

Highways Term Maintenance Association executive director Geoff Allister called on the new Secretary of State to deliver a firm commitment to stick with recent increases in capital maintenance budgets. “Road maintenance funding stimulates the local and national economies, bringing jobs and growth for businesses and improves the condition of our roads,” he said.

Road Safety Markings Association chief executive George Lee urged the new Secretary of State to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to reducing the number of road users killed and seriously injured every year.

And the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety’s executive director David Davies added: “We are relieved to see that earlier rumours that the Department for Transport was to be abolished appear incorrect. Transport safety requires coordination and is not just about infrastructure.”

Before his appointment as Transport Secretary last week Chris Grayling was the Leader of the House of Commons. He was previously Justice Secretary and 10 years ago was the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport. During a Commons vote in 2009 he urged the then Labour Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow. This week it was also announced that John Hayes has returned to the Department for Transport, and among his responsibilities will be high speed rail. Meanwhile Paul Maynard has been named rail minister following the departure of Claire Perry.