Small schemes backed at global congress

Low cost interventions that make a big difference to local communities could feature strongly in Government’s forthcoming thinking around infrastructure, a senior civil servant has suggested.

Department for Transport’s local transport director Graham Pendlebury told delegates to the World Road Association UK Congress in Glasgow on Tuesday: “Smaller scale investments can really make a transformational change and I think we will see more of those coming forward in the coming months and years.”

He added that recent months have seen a renewed interest in smaller local schemes alongside big ticket items such as High Speed 2, Crossrail and airport expansion which are “necessary and big drivers for growth”. But, he added: “One detects there is now much more interest in better maintenance of existing assets and smaller improvements that can make a difference.”

The debate about the role of transport helping with economic regeneration and growth has now “more or less been settled” he added. “Government Ministers totally buy into the connection between a functioning transport system and economic growth, and have done since the economic shocks of recent years.”

Graham Pendlebury was asked by a delegate if he thought that the National Infrastructure Commission’s call for evidence on a National Infrastructure Assessment, published last Thursday, is an ideal opportunity to push forward the need for highway assets to be made more resilient.

“The Commission has up to now tended to look at some of those bigger ticket items such as transport in northern England and east / west links. This isn’t the whole story and there is something to say around resilience as well, including flooding,” he replied.

The Commission has asked interested parties to submit evidence, ideas and solutions to help shape the National Infrastructure Assessment before mid February. In terms of transport the call for evidence asks several questions for the industry to consider including how travel patterns may change between now and 2050 and what opportunities so called ‘mobility as a service’ may create for road user charging.

Another question that cuts across several sectors is how infrastructure should be designed, planned and delivered to create better places to live and work. Alongside the call for evidence the Commission has announced the formation and membership of two new expert advisory groups: a technical panel and an analytical panel.

Members of the technical panel include Arup’s Tim Chapman, University College London’s professor of engineering Brian Collins and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation’s chief executive Graham Dalton (formerly of the Highways Agency).

Deputy chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said: “How can infrastructure best support growth, how should we decide what we repair and what we build and who should pay for it – these are the sorts of big questions we need to answer. That is why the Commission is asking for your views across these and a range of issues as we launch the next stage of our National Infrastructure Assessment.”