Steve Fox, chief executive of BAM Nuttall, has told ACE’s Annual Conference that the UK is not alone in Europe in facing infrastructure challenges. But he warned that other countries were getting work underway while the UK is still looking to get things running as they need to.
With that in mind he said we need to see clear routes to funding and real changes in the way procurement is done rather than seeing the wheel being re-invented for each new project being put forward.
He also noted that while commercial markets were holding up in and around London, this was not the case across the country and transport investment will be needed to make things happen.
Clinton Leeks OBE, head of public relations at HS2, stated that it is important to look over the parapet that seems always to surround major transport projects in the UK.
He said that no Secretary of State for Transport, so far as he knows, has ever made it to the role of Prime Minister. He suggested this may say something about how Transport is perceived in government.
To summarise the problem he noted that Crossrail was proposed in the 1980s and will not be finished until later this decade. He suggested that this might be a problem of allowing the best to be the enemy of the good, with so many stakeholders having a big role in debate.
To counter this, HS2 faces a major undertaking to bring communities into the project and to tell a story about the benefits on offer, the travel experience of the future and the great impact it can have on growth, though this is complex. At the same time construction impact needs to be managed throughout delivery.
David Cooper, head of infrastructure and structured project finance at Barclays, said that we need to get away from a theoretical debate on financing infrastructure. UK industry is very good at financing infrastructure when the private and public sector negotiate and support each other’s aims.
Sovereign wealth funds, he said, wanted to buy assets, but there is a shortage of assets available. This was disappointing given that infrastructure investments have performed relatively well through the financial crisis.
He then suggested that small scale projects on improving local infrastructure were an area banks would be keen to get more involved in if conditions can be put in place.
Roy Hill, project director at HS2, told delegates that he has a dream job in delivering HS2. He said that the UK is in a fantastic position to grow skills through HS2 which will be developed over decades alongside other major projects for the UK.
He explained that working groups would be set up with groups like ACE, CECA and others to help inform government on facilitating and financing HS2. And while time frames appear long, he noted that in the next six weeks the number of people working on HS2 would rise from the current 500 to 1500 and then it would continue to grow quickly.
Author: Editor Gavin Pearson (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 202 0255)