Impact Of Budget On Rail – Mark Cowlard, EC Harris Provides His View
Mark Cowlard, Partner and Global Head of Rail at built asset consultancy, EC Harris comments:
“The rail industry had little expectation that there would be few, if any announcements made in George Osborne’s 2014 budget today, and we were not disappointed!
“The commentary went as far as confirming support for HS2, and that was it.
“So what can the rail sector take from the budget?
“The new ‘Garden City’ in Ebbsfleet, a great initiative to develop 15,000 homes in an area just outside of London was reconfirmed. With plenty of brown and green field areas to develop, and critically first class infrastructure connections, with the M25 being just two junctions on the A2 away and of course High Speed 1 running through the station into London in about 17 minutes, this is an amazing development opportunity. This supports the proposition that investment in our railways has great benefits for the socio economic development of our towns and cities – benefits we will see with the creation of HS2. This week, Sir David Higgins issued his report ‘HS2 Plus’ where he stated that we need to develop the project as quickly as possible, laying the onus of this onto Parliament’s door step. The pace will reduce physical cost of delivery, but importantly like HS1 and the ‘Garden City’, will bring benefits quicker. It is disappointing though that today George Osborne didn’t provide funding to accelerate the development of HS2 in this way.
“The mention of apprenticeships though is interesting, with grants available for 100,000 new apprenticeships and the creation of a route to degrees for apprentices. The UK rail industry has and continues to suffer from a lack of investment and succession planning in engineering talent; this is becoming ever more of a challenge as we see growth in the global rail sector. This, coupled with Vince Cable’s recent announcement of a rail training academy for rail, is valued and might help to create a future generation of railway professionals to succeed those senior individuals on the cusp of retirement.”