2016 will be a year of great opportunity for transport infrastructure but it will also be a year of great challenges. If it fails to make the most of the opportunities then it risks the major investment and projects that the country so desperately needs.
That means each part of the transport sector playing its full role from the very start of year. We cannot just expect others to pick up the burden.
Let's just consider a few of those challenges.
1) There is much riding in the shoulders of Lord Adonis and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC). Its governance, structure and operation are now being consulted on so transport needs to make its voice heard. That's even before the Commission's initial report is published. We all need to deliver strong and consistent engagement if the Commission is to be given the tools to deliver.
2) Similarly, a lot is expected of Transport for the North. The establishment of this body will be critical to transforming transport across the North and if the Northern Powerhouse initiative is to have any chance of the success then it needs to be underpinned by dynamic transport system, across all modes. The work on HS3 with the NIC, means that it has to hit the ground running.
3) Rail Strategy 2035. The Department for Transport, along with the Rail Delivery Group, is undertaking challenging work to look into the future of rail, considering not just projects but technology as well. As well as this, there will be the Shaw Review to respond to as well.
4) Devolution. Transport also needs to get its head around what the role of Mayors and more powerful city regions / combined authorities will mean for projects and project development. The power of elected mayors to increase business rates for spending on local infrastructure projects, as suggested by the Chancellor, needs the support of local business. That means a different type of conversation for transport.
5) Spending allocations are not about North vs South. The sector has done a lot to move away from an 'it's our turn' mentality. London needs to be strong and other cities across the country need to be strong as well. The newly launched Urban Transport Group needs to embody this approach when engaging in its work.
The Chancellor is responsible for many of the new policies and powers that sit behind the desire to deliver new infrastructure, not just transport. He obviously did so because he has become frustrated with a lack of progress. So unless all these new opportunities are grasped and very quickly then Ministers will lose interest.
That makes 2016 is the best chance that transport infrastructure has to make a major breakthrough.
Reference: Angus Walker, @planningactblog; Partner, Bircham Dyson Bell
Angus will be speaking at the UK Transport Infrastructure Summit on 12-13 April 2016. Click here to book your place now.