With attention on Brexit and negotiating new trade deals, it might have been forgotten that - whatever the outcome - infrastructure investment is another pillar supporting our future economic prosperity.
Elizabeth Line transforms London
It is hard to believe that in less than three years, Crossrail 1 – now christened the Elizabeth Line - is expected to open. Europe’s largest engineering project is predicted to boost the UK economy by £42 billion and add invaluable capacity to London and the South East’s strained transport system.
Crossrail - as well as other improvements such as the planned northern line extension - has acted as a major catalyst for regeneration in London, helping to make schemes viable and transforming London’s forgotten and tired corners.
In last spring’s budget, the green light was given to Crossrail 2, the north-south rail route complementing the east-west running Crossrail 1. Crossrail 2 will link Surrey commuter towns with Wimbledon through to Clapham Junction, Chelsea, north London and out to Hertfordshire.
Expected to be completed by 2033, it will provide a further link for London, which is predicted to be a mega city of 10 million people by this time and risks grinding to a halt without adequate infrastructure.
Investment in infrastrucutre needed
Outside London, cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester are undergoing an economic renaissance. But this has been accompanied by increasing congestion on the roads.
Commuters in the UK’s most congested towns and cities waste on average 127 hours per year in traffic, according to recent analysis by Tom Tom Traffic. Surprisingly, Belfast was the most congested in the UK in terms of hold-up time. Poor public transport provision was one of the reasons given. Investment in public transport will be crucial to keep all our cities moving.
Travel between cities is an issue with delayed and crowded intercity trains, highlighted in the wrong way by the Corbyn train-gate furore, and congested main roads, as anyone who has sat in jams on the M1 and M6 will tell you.
Connecting UK cities
HS2, the high-speed rail line linking first London to Birmingham and then connecting Manchester and Leeds to create a Y-shaped network, will greatly boost capacity.
Currently, 11,300 seats are offered from Euston, but by 2033 this will increase to 34,900 seats. HS2’s Birmingham terminus is the focus of a major new regeneration project, creating 2,000 new homes and 600,000 sq m of new commercial space.
Then there is former chancellor George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, formerly called HS3: the revitalisation of the links between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. But, with little real cash to back the project under Osborne and no mention of it with the incoming May government, will this ever get off the ground?
You only have to look at one area of London to see the positive impact of spending on infrastructure. Behind King’s Cross were acres of redundant land.
The commitment to HS1 and a new international terminal at St Pancras kick started its regeneration. Among its many highlights, the area now hosts the prestigious Central Saint Martins art college and Google’s future headquarters and, when completed, will have 2,000 new homes and 20 refurbished historic buildings.
Post-Brexit, prioritise infrastrucutre
Although the Brexit negotiations are important, the government must not delay and commit now to investing in infrastructure to secure the future prosperity.
And in the property world, developers and investors looking to sell apartments or rent out office space need to communicate just how significant these transport improvements will be. With general awareness of the many major infrastructure projects across the UK surprisingly low, communicating how new stations and lines are likely to transform an area could be the key to making a sale or signing a lease.