The whole of the UK is short of infrastructure


         Some of you have commented that London has grown faster because it has taken a disproprtionate share of the infrastructure investment. It is difficult to square this with the reality.

           The truth is that much of the UK is short of transport capacity. The country is gradually benefitting from a big expansion of digital broadband capacity, with major investment in all regions. London, the south-east and the east are  suffering more than the rest of the country from a failure to invest in enough reservoir capacity for water demands. Electricity is delivered by national grid, and gas and oil are shared around the whole country.  There is, it is true, only one high speed train line from London to the Channel tunnel. The rest of the railway  network was shared around by Victorian entrepreneurs who put substantial capacity into the then prosperous industrial regions.  Modern subsidy perpetuates the broad shape of the Victorian railway, as adjusted by Beeching. 

          If you look at road investment the south of the country has received less motorway investment than the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire. East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall, Lincolnshire and Northumberland have all been left out of the motorway age.

          All four major urban complexes, London, Birmingham.,Manchester and the Yorkshire urban area have their motorway boxes. The M 25, the M42, and the M60 are ringways for London, Birmingham and Manchester. The  Yorkshire motorway box links Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster and the other main cities.

           The London ringway is fed by the M1, M11, M2,M20, M23, M3, M4 and M 40.  Despite the varied links, there is no motorway link from London to  anywhere on the south coast between Folkestone and Portsmouth, no motorway to the crucial ports of Harwich and Felixstowe, no motorway or continuous dual carriageway link along the route of the A303 to the west country. The south has no motorway or continuous dual carriageway along the south coast. The capacity on the main routes west is poor for the heavy  traffic volumes, especially in the M4 corridor. 

           The Birmingham ringway  is fed by the M6, the M40, the M5, the M 54, the M45 and the M 69. There are good Birmingham motorway links to London ( 2 options), the west country, Lancashire and the north west, and to the M1 north. The A14 haul road to Felixstowe is of reasonable standard.

              The Manchester ringway is fed by the M62, M56, M61 and M 66. There are motorway links to all the main towns and cities in Lancashire, across the Pennines to Yorkshire and north to the Lakes and Scotland, as well as south to London.

              The Yorkshire broader ring  has links to the A(1) M, the M62, the M18, the M 180 and the M1. This links the cities to each other, to the East Midlands and London  to the south, Lancashire across the Pennines, to Kingston upon Hull and Scunthorpe.

               The government has stated its wish to expand transport, broadband, water, electricity and other energy capacity. Much of the investment can be made by the private sector. Electricity capacity is urgently required, and will be available nationally. Water capacity is needed in the south and east, where water companies have failed to keep pace with growing demand. I would be interested to hear from contributors about what expansion of road and rail capacity they would like to see, and how much of any additional capacity  could be privately financed.  Getting more out of  our existing railway is a story for another day, but an important one. Having enough airport and seaport capacity is also a crucial issue, as economic development normally flows from proximity to a good port.

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  1. lifelogic
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    London is in desperate need of better roads (preferable without blocks and bus lanes), underpasses, a proper circular road and over passes, new bridges (especially at the Blackwall tunnel) a new runway at Gatwick and Heathrow with a HS train link. Perhaps a few more Paris RER type deep tubes lines too and a double decker M25 with cars on the top level. If it did not have to carry the bloated state sector and the rest country plus Scotland and Wales it could well afford them all. Perhaps even a road tunnel north to south and east to west under central London to link to the M25 without going round it or through central London.

    Off topic but related:

    I read that John Griffin of the excellent minicab firm Addison Lee has called to break London bus lane ban. He said allowing only licensed black taxis to use the bus lanes was “unfair discrimination”. It very clearly is do we not have unfair competition laws?

    But anyway taxis are less efficient than small private cars (due to them needed a professional driver and also having to do a double drop off/pick up journey usually) so why not let private cars use the lanes too. Taxis are just inefficient private cars with an extra driver and paid by the mile.
    Any alocation/division of the roads to specific vehicles just decreases the over all capacity anyway and causes extra pointless congestion. Buses too have average occupancies often in single figures. They start and stop all the time and take indirect and slow routes and are large, cumbersome, slow and dirty. They too are less efficient in fuel and C02 than a full small car. So why the mad often empty bus lane agenda at all? Think of all the coloured tarmac, signs and pointless jobs saved too. Just release the lot of them to get a real job.

    Also I see that MP are likely to be given Ipads for them and their families to play on. Ipads to me see to be like a stylish toy computers but lacking the essential keyboard, folding closed facility, a decent battery life, a decent storage capacity and with a designed build in redundancy after a year or two as the battery fails (and it is not worth the cost of professional replacement – not very green at all please note Libdems). What is wrong with a £150 say Samsung laptop far better if less stylish?

    Do they want style or function? Clearly the former – true to form.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      We clearly need electronic charging for all road use. Charges variable by time and distance travelled this in place of road tax so people pay as they go and are encouraged to do so off peak if possible. Also so we have an incentive to provide the roads needed not just block them with traffic lights, bus lanes and islands as now.

      • outsider
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

        Congestion is a cost (time and extra fuel) and provides an excellent incentive to travel off peak. In a free market, the level of predictable congestion is therefore optimal, given the amount of infrastructure. Unforeseen congestion could not be resolved by cash charging.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          Of course you can deter by charging more at peak times, just as airlines/trains do. The huge advantage is that by using a charge rather than just congestion to deter you have money to spend on improvements to relieve the pressure. Congestion is just wasted time and money for all.

          I agree the problem is will the government spend it wisely this way?

      • Mark
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        NO we don’t. We already pay through fuel tax, which is much cheaper to collect and doesn’t entail the state making and keeping records of all our movements.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          But it does not charge fairly in relation to use and more importantly it cannot deter peak hour travel or deal with toll bridges like Dartford or charge visitors.

          Otherwise peak travel is only deterred by large delays better to do it financially but it is a long term development but it will come. The problem will be to make sure we do not get fuel tax, road tax and the electronic road tax too.

          • Mark
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            If you wish to deter peak hour travel you must tax employers who demand employees arrive at set times that create the peaks. Nothing else will work, since employees don’t wish to lose their jobs. Taxing hapless commuters is entirely the wrong approach.

          • lifelogic
            Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            If you tax the commuters they will bring pressure to bear on employers.

      • John C
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        I would suggest that haulage and similar companies should have a lower rate than private use.

        I would purposefully design the system to make it difficult for EU companies to get this reduced tariff. It probably goes against EU competition rules but I’m sure we could employ some clever people to do this (ex-bankers or lawyers perhaps).

        Also, tailor the tariff so they could travel the motorways at night to free up capacity.

        • Robert Christopher
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Most haulage companies are private; do you mean personal use?

          Whys should private buses and coaches be treated poorly?

      • ChrisXP
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        You seriously think rural dwellers are going to shell out on pay-per-mile, as well as fuel duty? Our cars are a necessity, not a luxury. Bus services are miserly to poor, they dont go where you need them to go and they are damned expensive.
        We have in this house, over the past few years, seriously reined in our journeys, to the point where I am now housebound almost 24/7, to keep costs down. I do not go out unless I really have to.

        As for “off-peak” travel, define “off-peak” and then see how many things don’t conveniently fit into that category; like going to the doctor’s, or the bank, or other places that normally close at 4-5pm.
        You can’t have pay-per-mile AND fuel tax; that would seriously cripple people’s movements, especially those with little to no money.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          The advantage is that not crowded road could be cheap to use. It should not be used to raise even more tax but to replace it in part.

          • APL
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

            Fuel excise duty and the iniquitous VAT on Fuel excise, is the most sensible low cost way to tax your vehicle usage per unit distance traveled.

            We don’t need, road tolls, we don’t need satellite tracking nor tachometers or your favorite ‘electronic charging for all road use’.

            Why introduce another complicated tax regieme, when the simplest and easiest to use and impliment is standing by the roadside and everyone has to use it, it’s called the Petrol Station.

            My complaint with regard to Fuel excise duty is that at several hundred percent of the cost of the taxed commodity, it is one clear case of immoral government.

            VAT on Fuel excise duty, or a tax on the tax you pay, is just obscene.

      • lojolondon
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        No, we don’t! The moment you go with that the tax will continue to creep up and it will never go back down and they will say that you are on 38% tax, meanwhile you are on 90% tax. Labour are the party that tax and spend. Proper Conservatives will cut taxes and be honest about what we pay! We already pay road tax and tax on insurance and parking meters and toll roads and tax on fuel and all the other taxes on transport. Use that money for roads and not to pay £15Billion to the EU every year!!

        • APL
          Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          lojolondon: “No, we don’t!”

          Of course we don’t.

          But it does illustrate that Parliament has completely changed from a body that’s sole purpose was to keep a check on the spending of the Crown is now a corrupt and self serving institution the sole aim of which is to milk the population for all it can to keep itself in power.

          In short it has become the Crown.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        More personal greed and right wing stupidity.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        Interesting idea. Make fuel 20 quid a gallon would also have a similar result. Toll charges are probably the right idea, but my 20 quid a gallon will be closer to the truth. This restaurant is to full! Whom do we have to pay to leave? Michael Winners taste in food is impeccable so I hear.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      I learn that the banks owned by the Dutch Government seem happy to lend on sensible (even UK) security and at sensible margins and fees of about base +2.5% and 1% – why on earth can the ones owned by the UK government not be made to do this rather than pulling loans back?

      Why also are company cash credit deposits accounts paid interest of about 0.1% when individuals can get 3.5% on ISA deposits. There is a clear lack of competition here that needs sorting out. Then they want to lend it back to you at 10%+ when you are more credit worthy than they are they are a joke.

      When will Cameron sort them out and get some decent banking going? In the mean time cut out the middle man if you can seems the best policy.

      • Mark
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps the slow increase in mortgage interest will allow a little more to be paid to depositors. At the moment mortgages remain heavily subsidised at the expense of all other bank customers.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          Yes but cash is cash why one rate for company deposits and another for personal ones. It shows a lack of any real competition.

          • Mark
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps it relates to expected duration and stability of the deposit.

          • lifelogic
            Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

            No it relates to what they can get away with when there is a lack of real competition and just a few providers. Even long term rates are bad.

          • sm
            Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            Move the company money and take the admin and hassle ?
            Banks know business don’t or wont generally do this.

            Individuals can and will do this increasingly.

      • outsider
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Dear lifelogic,
        Apologies for a second riposte but it always tickles me when free market ultras find that market forces are not delivering what they want and conclude that “competition is not working” and that the government must intervene to achieve a different result, especially when, as you suggest with banking, the solution is socialist.

        • lifelogic
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

          I do not really follow you clearly need something to ensure that cartels and monopolies are not able to exploit positions. The regulatory frame work has to ensure fair competition. It is not socialist.

          Taking an extreme example – then without a regulatory frame work (or laws) you could just get very rich by kidnapping people or murdering them and taking their houses. The laws however need to be intelligent and ensure fair competition yet outlaw exploitation through unfair means or collaboration to exploit or manipulate markets or insider dealing or similar.

          Some regulations and law and order is clearly essential not socialist just essential.

          • uanime5
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

            No outsider is quite right that you always demand the markets be left alone, unless it’s to your detriment then you demand that the Government change it so you benefit.

            What you’re calling for goes far beyond a regulatory framework and would effectively lead the the Government setting interest rates. This won’t make competition fairer as all banks will be forced to act the same way.

          • Bazman
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

            Which is what many employment laws exist to do. How do you propose to rive down the wages of other worker with skills demanded by employers as you propose to do with millions of unskilled workers? These people just refuse to work for the amount offered. A real problem holding back many companies.

          • lifelogic
            Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

            No it does not just ensure fair competition few barriers to entry no collusion or monopolies or duopolies, clearly understood contract terms, just an efficient regulatory frame work that is all that is needed.

    • rose
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I think the bus lanes shouldn’t have either kind of taxi in them. They should be narrower and built up, to prevent motorists stopping in them, and only bicycles should be allowed to use them. That way, bikes and motor traffic wouldn’t be in unequal conflict with each other as now.

      • rose
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Motor bikes should go on the roads with the other motor traffic because it is speed which causes danger and the conflict as much as size.

        • Bazman
          Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

          Kittens are also less cuddley.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        You are in effect just constricting the roads doing this allocation of road space.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Taxis are far more efficient than private cars as you don’t need as many parking spaces.

      Given how few people are often in cars compared to buses it would be foolish to remove buses just to please a few drivers.

      Why would you change the battery on an iPad when you can recharge it, just like you can recharge a lap top? Also iPad are better than laptops because they’re smaller and lighter.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Taxis are either parked or they are on the road blocking it – they make double journeys too to make the pick up/drop off so nearly half the mileage they do is wasted cruising round empty.

        Bus occupancy depot to depot often is less than can go in one much more efficient people carrier.

        When the battery on the tablet stops holding its charge properly after a year of two of course.

  2. Robert K
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Living in South Oxfordshire and with an office in London, I work from home several days a week. The two most important pieces of infrastructure I use are 1) the fibre optic junction box which, being only a few hundred metres from my house, allows me high speed broadband via BT’s Infinity service, and 2) First Great Western’s high speed rail link to Paddington.
    Both work remarkably well, with the odd glaring lapse.
    It strikes me that if more people telecommuted, the pressure on the physical transport system would ease.
    That said, I agree that the roads need to be upgraded, especially given how much money is ripped out of the motorist’s pocket. I recall driving from Southampton to Dorset for the first time and being bewildered by the lack of a proper South Coast route. However, I am not in favour of compulsory purchase for road building schemes – the economics of a new road should include the real cost of land.
    Finally, to bang a particular drum, it is bonkers that there is no rail access to Heathrow from the west. The M4 corridor is one of the main business arteries in England yet if one wants to travel to Heathrow from Reading, Didcot, Swindon or Newbury, the quickest rail option is to travel into Paddington and then back out again on the Heathrow Express. This, despite the fact that the mainline trains run east-west barely more than a mile north of Heathrow.
    Needing to use Heathrow regularly, I take a train from Didcot to Reading and then take a bus, making what should be a 30-minute train journey 1.5-hour slog. Or I just jump in the car and drive. Not exactly 21st Century.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Robert K,

      p49 of the ‘National Infrastructure Plan 2011’ states

      “Network Rail is working with BAA to develop a proposal for a new rail line from the Great Western Main Line near Slough to Heathrow”

  3. barnacle bill
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    With all of the monies/taxes fleeced off my motoring activities by nuLabor and to be continued by the Coalition there should have been no need for the questions raised by this post John!

  4. Bernard from Bucks
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    We should easily be able to solve this John.
    Put HS2 on a ‘very low back burner’ and spend the money on roads and existing railways.
    (I have to admit, that in truth, I’d rather see the ‘eu inspired monster’ scrapped altogether.)

  5. NickW
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    The A14 (midlands to Felixstowe) is working at the limits of its capacity. There is frequent congestion and even minor accidents cause huge tail backs.

    Given the importance of the route to Felixstowe docks and the growth of Cambridge (as mandated by Government), the route needs reviewing and improving. Felixstowe docks are a part of the national infrastructure and toll roads are out of the question; they would simply divert the heavy lorries onto unsuitable minor roads.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      I agree the A14 is far too overloaded whenever I have used it.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        LOL! To many cleaners on it?

    • Mark
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      I agree this route should be a priority.

    • Mike Fowle
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Living in Felixstowe as I do, I can only say hear hear to that.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      What about all the upgrade work going on with the railway line between Brum and the Haven Ports ?

  6. Peter Richmond
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Could not agree more, Mr Redwood. During my working life I have lived at various times in London, Merseyside and Manchester. All regions served for many years by good road and rail networks. Since 1982 I have spent most of my life in Norfolk. At long last here we seem to be about to complete a dual carriageway to Norwich, a city that has greatly increased in size and commercial activity over the past 30 years. over this period the rail network has gone backwards. In the 1980s it was possible to reach London in 90 minutes; now the journey takes 20 minutes longer and the trains to London seem to be frequently delayed or cancelled for one thing or another. Compare this with 60 minutes for the rail journey from Peterborough to London- roughly the same distance. Rail fares too are greater than National Express who offer a more reliable and less costly service to London Victoria, Heathrow and Stansted. Norwich airport offers one of the easiest ways out using KLM to Schipol but this is usually much more expensive than going to Stansted. The UK has evolved significantly from its Victorian roots and planners need to recognise this.

  7. Lord Blagger
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    London, the south-east and the east are suffering more than the rest of the country from a failure to invest in enough reservoir capacity for water demands


    Nope. It’s a failure to control migration. Pull in lots of people, and its obvious demand for water will go up.

    The failure to invest is just a symptom.

    • NickW
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Government mandated house building without investment in water supply infrastructure has to stop immediately.

  8. stred
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Devon has good motorway and dual carriageway roads and Cornwall is also well served. The failure to finish the A303 is a disgrace. There is even a proposal to make it worse by diverting around Stonehenge. This road could take much of the traffic congesting the M4/5. The road to Brighton, Shoreham and Lewes is fine but the A27 is the main road across the South of England and is down to two lanes much of the way between Chichester and Dover. Similarly, the A35 to Honiton is two lanes along much of the route, with regular jams every day. This would be unthinkable in the North.

    I think the reason is the influence of wealthy people living along the route and not wanting any nasty traffic or industry in the area.

  9. David Hope
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I can’t speak for the South but my experience everywhere is generally that motorways are in the right places but capacity is just nowhere near enough.

    Queues are encountered all the time as roads are simply not wide enough (or there aren’t enough alternative routes) between most destinations both local and national. As the number of cars has gone up we simply haven’t invested in the new lanes and roads proportionately.

    One only has to listen to the day’s traffic news to hear the horrors as delays are announced everywhere and every accident causes chaos because even when things are running well we are at the limit of capacity.
    It does however sound like the M25 and routes into London are the worst examples of this – I don’t remember the last time there was a closure or huge delay. This part of the country needs some serious investment. As an aside I suspect it’s one reason commuter routes are so expensive too because there simply is no competition from roads that don’t move.

  10. Iain
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    And where do people want to head to for to some unspoiled beauty? Dorset, Devon Cornwall.

    • StevenL
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Or Northumberland?

  11. ian wragg
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Most of the infrastructure would be adequate if it wasn’t for successive governments allowing 250,000 immigrants in every year

  12. Sue
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    You politicians decided to open the floodgates to millions of newcomers without a single thought about planning. Leave the EU, shut the gates and sort it out!

    • APL
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Sue: “You politicians decided to open the floodgates to millions of newcomers without a single thought about planning.”

      Yep, and they are paid so well too. You’d have thought they’d get something right?

      Sue: “Leave the EU, shut the gates and sort it out!”


    • Bernard from Bucks
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Sue, you are of course correct, (as always). Almost everything comes back to having too many people in too small a space. More people require more homes, more homes require more land, more roads, more schools, more doctors, and something that is affecting me here in the Thames Vally, is the requirement of more water. There is a hose-pipe ban here at present. Not because there is no rain, but because of the hundreds of ‘back garden hut dwellers’ in Slough (just as an example), are in need of more ‘utilites’……!

  13. TimC
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    South coast route. Even my GPS thinks it is better to go up from here on the coast (New Romney) to the M25 in order to get to Chichester down on the coast again. I may be a leisure traveller but my spend at the theatre would aid the local economy if I could get to Chichester. Instead I head to London.

  14. oldtimer
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    My impression, driving north to Yorkshire last year, is that the region is well endowed with motorways; spending on A roads was obvious from their excellent condition. They were certainly better than the roads where I live in the south. My suspicious mind put it down to the influence of senior Labour MPs, in ministerial positions, when the decisions were made to invest in road infrastructure in the last Labour government. Your analysis of the well-endowed and less well-endowed regions seems to confirm my anecdotal impression.

    On new motor way construction my view is that it should continue to be taxpayer funded; motorists contribute many times over for a reasonable road network. I do not trust solutions that involve private money coupled with tolls that will simply be piled on top of existing taxation of motorists.

    HS2 seems, to me, to be a vanity project, like those tramway projects that once were all the rage and end up as disasters. Edinburgh`s is the current gross example of this.

    Slightly, though not entirely off topic, a recent study in Texas USA has concluded that the very large wind farms located there add to global warming, detectable by satellites. I suspect this is not factored into the thinking of DECC. The link to the research is here:

    It is clear that decarbonisation of the economy and renewable energy is part of the problem, not part of the solution to the UK`s energy needs. On the BBC`s 1pm news on Sunday a lady from the Royal Society of Engineering pointed out that the government`s plans were not feasible, could not be engineered and therefore were not achievable. Like many who post here, I believe that they whole global warming, CAGW hypothesis is grossly overstated if not nonsense. Its pursuit is extreme folly. It has been conflated with the proposition that the world is running out of fossil fuels or that they would only be available from unreliable sources – like Russia.. This, as I understand it, has been the line taken by successive Chief Scientific Advisors. This proposition is also untrue. The shale gas revolution has changed the world`s fossil fuel landscape beyond all recognition.

    The solution to the UK`s energy needs is another “dash for gas” as it was called a decade or so ago. The UK is sitting on quite sizable shale gas reserves, but these are dwarfed by discoveries around the rest of the world. In the BG Group, the UK hosts a business that knows all about shale gas. It is developing huge fields around the world and is a significant player in the extraction and shipment of LNG to the international market. Its role in the UK? So far as I am aware it is zero – apart from shrewdly reaching an agreement to export US LNG to who knows where? In short the UK`s shale gas energy potential needs to be unlocked. Closed minds at DECC are the barrier.

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      While wind farms raise the temperature of the air and ground near the wind farm this effect is small and localised, unlike CO2 emissions. They may also prevent local frosts, which will be beneficial for those who grow fruit.

      • oldtimer
        Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        Where is your evidence that man made CO2 causes the temperature to rise to the extent that satellites can measure it?

        • Bazman
          Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

          The idea that burning all the fossil fuels in the earth would not have any effect on the climate is clearly wrong.

          • oldtimer
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            Where is the evidence? You need to pay attention to the work of Professor Salby who has analysed changes in temperature and atmospheric CO2 measured by satellites. This reveals that that there is a seasonal cycle, it corresponds to natural events and that the places where CO2 concentration are found are places like the African equator, not Shanghai, Pittsburgh or the Ruhr.

            Furthermore, this is a straw man argument. No one has suggested, as you put it it, “burning all the fossil fuels in the earth”.

        • uanime5
          Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          Studies by scientists which show that the average global temperature has been rising.

          • oldtimer
            Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

            This is not evidence that it is man made as opposed to it resulting from natural causes. It is certainly not the consequence of CO2 as the mismatch between the calculated global temperature (FWIW) and measured CO2 (FWIW) does not support the hypothesis that temperature is driven by CO2.

            There is also the awkward fact, for the CAGW hypothesis, that man made CO2 is but a small fraction of total CO2 in the atmosphere; and that total CO2 in the atmosphere is but a small fraction of the whole atmosphere. The case has not been made that man made CO2 causes global warming – it is merely an assertion that it might do so.

      • APL
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        uanime5: “They may also prevent local frosts, which will be beneficial for those who grow fruit.”

        They also kill birds, bats. So I suppose that might have a beneficial impact on those who grow fruit too, since there will be less fauna to eat the fruit. Downside is we may end up with a pest infestation, since the natural predators have been killed off.

        It’s just that whenever I have come across the windmills they are usually on moorland or open spaces or perhaps at the crest of a hill, very rarely do I see a windmill situated on a fruit farm, I suppose it’s possible though.

        Either way the windmills don’t produce enough electricity cheaply enough to be a viable means of providing electricity to a growing population.

        • uanime5
          Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          There’s no evidence that wind turbines kill birds or bats, both of which have evolved to be able to fly without crashing into moving objects.

          • APL
            Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

            uanime5: “There’s no evidence that wind turbines kill birds or bats ”

            Another evidence free assertion.

          • oldtimer
            Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

            They certainly kill “raptors”, birds of prey.

  15. norman
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Employer flexibility is as important as increasing capacity. I can only talk for my situation, but pretty sure it can’t be much different anywhere, but the rush hour traffic is dead slow to stop, crawling along on roads that were designed for traffic in the 1960’s. I can’t ever see it being any different.

    A lot of companies now allow flexible starting and finishing hours, which is nice, or leave early on a Friday if work later Mon-Thu. Working from home a day a week slowly creeping in, but very slowly.

    Doubt very much private finance will play much of a part, motorists are already horribly squeezed by the government which treats us as a milch cow as it knows we have no choice so carry on taxing in the name of saving the world. I imagine most of us ordinary punters struggling with transport costs as it is wouldn’t be too happy at being asked to pay even more when what is invested is a fraction of what the government takes from us.

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I think we should seriously reconsider the advisability of using private finance for public projects.

    At best PPI and PFI have not proved particularly successful, and at worst they’ve been disastrous; likewise some of the privatisations have been successful but others have not.

    The Labour government needed £200 billion so that it could continue to pay its bills in the year leading up to the general election, and fearing that private investors would become increasingly reluctant to lend the government that amount of existing money the Chancellor instead authorised the Bank of England to create £200 billion of new money and arrange for it to be passed to the Treasury through the gilts market.

    Dire warnings that “printing money” would inevitably lead to hyperinflation and a collapse in the sterling exchange rate have turned out to be misplaced, and indeed the present Chancellor has not held back from authorising the Bank to create another £125 billion of new money for his use, and may well repeat that in the future should need arise.

    Why borrow existing money from private investors to fund the construction of motorways, and pay them large sums in interest much of which will go abroad, or why put existing or new motorways into the hands of private investors so that they can receive dividends paid for by tolls, when the government could fund this essential public infrastructure by borrowing new money from the publicly owned Bank of England, effectively interest-free?

    It would need two sets of changes to our law: firstly to place the creation of new money under proper Parliamentary control, rather than leaving the decisions entirely in the hands of the Chancellor as now seems to be the case, and secondly to amend the European Communities Act 1972 to disapply Article 123 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits an EU national central bank from lending money direct to the national government.

    I don’t see any fundamental problem with the Bank creating new money to serve our national public purposes, provided that it is done transparently under proper national democratic control, and is limited in its extent to avoid significant devaluation of the national currency.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      The Tories and the Libs criticised PFI when they were in opposition. Once in Govt, their advisers got them to re-package the same long -term loan deals and call them Futures Trusts. The State is addicted to debt and to delaying any corrective adjustment. Lib/Lab/Con all offer same tax and spend startegy.

  17. Alex
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I have bought lots of things recently; music, food and drink, gardening stuff, tyres, clothes, books, and services such as car servicing. Thanks to the efficient working of a market economy all these were available in abundance, with lots of choice at reasonable prices. Nobody has to worry that they will pop into Tesco and find no food on the shelves.
    Yet it seems that we are in danger of being critically short of certain things – power, rail capacity, water, airport capacity…
    The one difference is that the second list is a list of things that the government actively tries to manage. In order to make sure we have enough.
    It’s almost as if government meddling makes things worse instead of better, isn’t it.

    So in answer to your question …
    . Let utility suppliers do their job without endless government interference
    . No HS2.
    . The criteria for major new road building should be “could this be built and operated at a profit by a private company as a toll road”? If so then it’s economic benefit is proven. So the easiest way to achieve this is to let private companies do exactly that, and take the business risk (subject to sensible planning constraints, obviously).
    . Ask if any rail companies can build and run new lines at a profit with the same subsidy levels as existing lines. If so, let them build and operate.
    So that’s no (or little) new spending. And you can cut huge chunks out of DECC, Defra and the Department for Transport as well.

    • Bernard from Bucks
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      “No HS2”
      Spot on, Alex.
      It’s a complete ‘White Elephant’.
      We should spend money on infrastructure, where it where it is needed most.

  18. Neil Craig
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    And you didn’t mention that herathrow is being denied the chance to expand.

    I stand by my opinion that it is closeness to the centre of governmentand the chance for companies to use that closeness that drives London’s expansion.

    I write as somebody with 2 sisters who, years ago, moved from Scotland to London because, if they wanted to be at the top of their professions, had to be there. I am often told that most people at the top in London are incomers like that so clearly it cannot be something inherent in the culture or genes of the natives.

    If it isn’t the presence of government spending, or infrastructure or the the natives what else could it be John?

  19. frank salmon
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    One solution would be to turn loss making train tracks into dedicated roads for coaches and freight. The math is indisputable. See

  20. BurnleyClaret
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    There is a simple way to increase capacity in a key area and this could be done relatively quickly – buy the M6Toll and make it free. Yes I’m sure that Midland Expressway or whoever owns it will want to squeeze every last penny out of the Government, but since traffic levels have been disappointing, they may be happy to get shut of it.

    Of course the reason they have been disappointing is the high charges – £5.50 for a car is bad enough but its £11 for a van or HGV! That’s £22 for a return trip. Yes some people may find it saves money for business trips but many private motorists who are less time sensitive don’t, can’t afford it, or refuse out of principle. Demand is massively suppressed and practically non-existent at night. Make it free and you’ll de-choke many of the key West Midlands truck routes used by through traffic and the productivity increases for UK plc will more than pay for the cost.

  21. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Infrastructute spending is needed but must be contained within tight public expenditure controls. If you expand capital spending, you have to bear down harder on current expenditure.

    Some elements of this story go a long way back. In 1970, Ted Heath used to visit the Departments of Transport and Environment, banging his fist on the table and declaiming “We’ve got to get the roads to the ports.” Forty plus years on we are still talking about it. Yes, improve links to Felixstowe, but you also have to remember ports like Immingham. Labour in northern, Scottish and Welsh ports is cheaper than at Tilbury and Southampton.

    Also, the stretch of M6 north of Birmingham has been under capacity for over 30 years. The M6 toll has given some relief to the route through Birmingham (although why the toll is so high is beyond me). However, once you are north of the point where M6 toll joins M6, there is no additional capacity. As soon as one lane is under maintenance, there are very long queues.

    In the south east, we must ensure that M25 capacity is adequate so that the whole region works well.

    It’s all a lot easier if HS2 is cancelled. Why spend a lot of money to build a White Elephant? I can’t help thinking that once it is built, somebody will spend another small fortune to join HS1 and HS2 in the heart of London, so that we are part od a great pan-European HS railway. Don’t forget: It’s a passenger railway, not a freight railway.

  22. Matthew
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Wish list for road and rail
    – Motorway the A1 north of Newcastle to Berwick and Edinburgh – for years Alan Beith has been trying to get dual carriageway at strategic points.

    – Rail, a complete review of the system, with the objective of increasing efficiencies, reducing subsidies and reducing Network Rail’s debt (taxpayer debt)

    Key points would be to look at –
    H2 link London to Birmingham, too costly, too slow

    Long distance seems to work well, I travel Newcastle to London most weeks and traveling off peak can usually pick up a first class return – 2 singles – for £190 – anytime return being £405 anytime standard being £301 – Food and drink (not alcohol obviously) free
    Why don’t they sell more? There are enough staff – you can’t get on a plane without them wheeling a trolley past your ear, selling something or other.

    But the trains are often empty! Yet there is supposed to be a lack of track capacity.

    Contrast this with the overcrowded compute from the Home Counties.

    Maybe some Professor Brainbox could look at the system as a whole and get some freight off the roads and onto rail as a bonus.

    • StevenL
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      for years Alan Beith has been trying to get dual carriageway at strategic points

      And if he couldn’t get it from Mr Blair, who was very pro-spending money in the north east and had a lot of money to spend, what chance now?

      • APL
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Matthew: ” Alan Beith ”

        Wasn’t he the guy that caused absolute chaos on the roads in Edinburgh, then ran away before he could be held accountable for the mess?

    • Tedgo
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      “But the trains are often empty”. At the prices you have quoted no wonders, particularly if there is more than one person. With an economical car the fuel for a round trip would be about £100.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

        Trains are turning into a middle class transport system because of the price.

  23. forthurst
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    What is the point of planning for the future of this country if those who appear to be calling the shots on population levels have no concern for the future of this country or the English people and do not live so much in this country as a part of London. Stop allowing people to trash this country otherwise we will finish up with an intrastructural deficit we cannot afford either the cash or space to rectify including that for hospitals and schools. Furthermore, there can be no rational discussion at government level on issues of AGW and electricity generation when the we are run by scientific illiterati.

    As for road infrasructure, the best people to ask are those concerned with the transport of goods; increasing road capacity has a tendency per se to encourage further commuting and congestion.
    The first question to ask is as to whether there is enough container port capacity and whether it is in the right place in terms of the destinations of goods.

    • forthurst
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      It is also important to project the implications of the use of the internet for commerce and how it will affect the warehousing and transport of goods.

  24. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I commute regularly from Cumbria to Glasgow and over the last few years my quality of life has been greatly enhanced and transport costs substantially reduced by:
    1. The bridging of the Cumberland gap so there is motorway all the way from Manchester to Glasgow now.
    2. The completion of the A74(M) motorway box around Glasgow.
    3. The completion of the Carlisle bypass.

    Work on the improving the A66 continue and should carry on in well planned stages.

    I just thought you’d like to hear some good news John!

    Meanwhile I’m worried about the quality of town planning which is going on.
    At local level people don’t seem to have a handle on how to integrate housing development with road links, sewerage needs, stated priorities for low cost housing, business needs and the like. The result is there is no coherent plan for the development of many towns and so planning permission is being granted to lots of very small projects in a dysfunctional way.

    It’s been suggested to me that that’s because wages in the public sector are so much lower than the private sector so we can’t recruit exceptional people and there may be some validity in that as these issues are highly complex, however I’m looking at how we can use online discussion forums to accumulate knowledge and better empower the people already in posts with information and analysis.

    Reply: Average public sector wages are higher than average private sector wages.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      It’s not the average that matter. It’s whether you can recruit some really gifted analytical people to deal the town planning or not at the rates you’re offering. Here it’s hard because people with those skills go and work at Sellafield for more money.

      So I’m looking instead at ways in which we can better inform and support the people we’ve got.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        Rough weather wise, economically and geographically on the Whitehaven coast. You need a good car the get from Barrow to Sellafield every day, especially if you choose the Sellafield motorway as the locals call it over Corney Fell.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

        The one level of educational achievement where public sector salaries are less than in the private sector is degree level; it’s just that there are more of them (as a proportion) in the public sector. At all lower levels of education, public sector wages are higher, the biggest % difference being at the lowest levels. Didn’t you know? The Civil Service really reveres its filing clerks.

        If you do an internet search starting with something like ‘UK public and private sector salaries’ you can access informative material.

    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      I’m always pleasantly surprised by the comparatively billiard table smooth roads when driving north of the border up to Glasgow – paid for by English taxpayer subsidy.

      • Bazman
        Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Not so good generally in the north of England. The weathers effect on them does not help.

  25. James Power
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    What is needed is another Victorian-style splurge on infrastructure investment. Imagine how much money would be available for infrastructure renewal if we weren’t paying vast amounts into the EU!
    I have never known the roads to be in such an appalling state – it’s destroying cars and is downright dangerous for motorcyclists. I pay 3 lots of road tax (car, classic car for occasional use, and motorbike) and it pains me that I seem to get so little back from it. Oh for the hypothecated tax…

    I know, John, you prefer private investment (as do I) but I would much prefer to see QE being spent on some government-funded infrastructure spending (such as new motorways and A-road renewals) that actually employs people, rather than simply ploughing it into bank coffers.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      The QE money goes from the Bank to the Treasury via the gilts market, and then apart from the sums sent abroad for eg EU contributions the money is spent into the UK economy when the government pays its bills. As always a portion of those bills will relate to infrastructure projects. But even if it was decided to use more QE money for infrastructure there’d have to be worthwhile projects already planned and approved to spend it on.

    • APL
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      James Power: “I have never known the roads to be in such an appalling state – it’s destroying cars and is downright dangerous for motorcyclists.”

      They have plenty of money for road rerouting and ‘traffic calming’ initiatives.

      This City, they have just (five or so years ago) installed ‘sleeping policemen’ now at a loss as to what else to do, imposed a blanked totally unnecessary blanked 20mph speed limit.

      The main city artery is dug up and traffic chaos reigns.

      There must be a budget for ‘totally useless initiatives’, that one never seems to be subject to cuts.

  26. Bruce of Burghfield
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Thank you John for raising all those transportation matters. I now understand why I queued at LHR Term 4 for 1.5 hrs last Friday, and why the M180 in North Lincolnshire and the A15 over the Humber Bridge was completely empty at 4.30 pm.

  27. Andy Man
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Too little,too late as usual. We needed more fast roads 20 years ago. By the time we even get a serious discussion on the amount of building you’re talking about we’ll be up to our necks in fuel shortages caused by the continuing collapse in oil exports available for us to buy. Just look at the figures for the North Sea and all our usual oil suppliers. Production is not keeping up with supply and with the catastrophic money printing by the Bank of England devaluing the £ we will not be able to afford the oil even if it’s available. Good ideas Mr Redwood just a generation too late.

  28. APL
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    JR: “The whole of the UK is short of infrastructure”

    The lengths you’ll go to to avoid the root cause of a problem.

    There are too many people in the country, we don’t need any more. The infrastructure is clearly beginning to creak and increasing the population will only make matters worse.

    But wait, what’s that I hear, a politicians actually getting to the nub of the problem? No I thought not!

    Reply: I seem to remember devoting considerable time and space to the need to cut immigration recently.

    • APL
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      JR: “I seem to remember devoting considerable time and space to the need to cut immigration recently. ”

      The whole article ingnored the single most significant factor affecting every single aspect of infrastructure requirement, population.

      If the pretend Government of the United hadn’t in fact abdicated it’s right to control our borders, much of the so called infrastructure requirements you cite would not be necessary.

      If our population was allowed to go into decline and managed over the next one hundred years back down to 50 million, then much of the so called ‘investment’ you say is required wouldn’t be necessary.

      You have identified the symptoms but ignored – in this article, the cause.

      Our government isn’t.
      Immigration is now putting a very measurable strain on the infrastructure of the country.

      When you factor that into the balance sheet, you have on the one side the thing the ‘luvvies’ love most, a few exotic meals, against a requirement to massively expand the public debt to fund new infrastructure for an essentially transient population.

      Just at the time when your government should be contracting the public balance sheet to stop the country going bankrupt.

      Oh, but your useless pseudo Tory administration, isn’t doing that either.

      Reply: I had just written several pieces about the immigration problem, and directly linked the water shortage of more people needing water. We now need more infrastructure for all the people now settled here. That does not make me against controls on future migrations.

      • Steven Whitfield
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        With respect to Mr Redwood, transcribing government letters about immigration policy isn’t the same as having a debate.

        Mr Redwood, said ‘ … directly linked the water shortage of more people needing water. We now need more infrastructure for all the people now settled here. It’s a shame you didn’t go further an press publically and privately for an immeadiate review of immigration policy.

        We need an open and honest discussion of immigration. I have no time for extremist groups like the BNP with there racist associations. But if mainstream politicians refuse to engage with the debate, they are acting as recruiting sargents for these loutish organisations.

        reply: but it is. I put the government view, listened to your views, then put my view. I have had several meetings with the Minister to press for more action.

    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      With respect to Mr Redwood, posting government press releases and letters isn’t the same as having a proper debate .

      Mr Redwood has… ‘directly linked the water shortage of more people needing water. We now need more infrastructure for all the people now settled here’. It’s a shame that Mr Redwood didn’t go further and call publically and privately for an urgent review into the sustainability of immigration policy.

      We need a calm and rational debate, but attempting to stifle or hinder discussion is counter productive. I have no time for the futile kinds of groups with racist associations like the BNP, but if mainstream politics refuse to engage with the debate they are effectively becoming a recruiting sargent for these organisations.

  29. Bob
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m sitting here fuming because I’ve got containers at Felixstowe that were supposed to be delivered to me last Friday, but were delayed until today, and now delayed again until Thursday, and then who knows?

    And the reason for the delays is the weather! How pathetic!

    This country needs to pull it’s socks up and stop wasting money on nonsense such as windmills HS2 and we need to get our people back to work instead of paying them to sit around doing nothing.

    Why don’t we have some all weather facilities at Felixstowe?

    As someone said to me today, it’s not the weather, it’s the people!

    With the all the taxes we should have the best port and road systems in the world.

    • Bazman
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Then they will be stuck on the A14 due to the governments cut of the 4 billion upgrade.

  30. rose
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    You examine London, Birmingham, and Manchester but don’t mention Bristol which was the first city to introduce electric trams (1895) and at their peak had 17 routes with 237 trams in use.

    As Bristol is unable to have an underground (becauseof its geology and topography) it is in a bad way now that substandard 1960s bus routes are the only public transport there is. Far too many cars, vans, and lorries make bicycling dangerous and unpleasant; walking too. Motorists complain bitterly about their own traffic jams and pollution. Something needs to be done, but never is, because, presumably, Bristol doesn’t qualify as metropolitan or Northern or Celtic.

  31. Caterpillar
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    “I would be interested to hear from contributors about what expansion of road and rail capacity they would like to see, and how much of any additional capacity could be privately financed”

    1. I guess to get more (substantially) free-standing projects would require some taxation reductions througout the country, and government effort put into route planning, speeding through procedures etc. Additionally freedom for private sector to price freely for a significant number of years. [I don’t know whether something like duty free fuel available on a private M-way from Felixstowe to the M11 could be considered, so that hauliers might be prepared to pay to use].

    2. Much early economic gain for HS2 will come from capacity freeing up on west coast main line, I cannot see a for profit coordination mechanism given the current structure.

    3. A limit to repeated bidding in none free-standing PFI projects (perhaps a revenue promise to remove risk might be attractive in the current environment).

    (a) For 4G broadband, just cut up the bandwith and hold a Vickrey auction.
    (b) Could any of the QE money have been used to buy out existing PPI contracts with defined revenue streams?

    I’d like to see:-

    HS2 asap between BHX and the City, and BHX and Heathrow.
    Agree with idea of a Felixstowe-westwards motorway to at least M11 (I’d also like Cambridge-Bedford-Northampton, but that might be just me, some might argue for a western link further north A14 or A47)
    Consideration of M42 and M45 extensions.

    • Mark
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      HS2 s a white elephant vanity project that should be killed off right now.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink



  32. bob webster
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Here in Yorkshire the motorway network is more than adequate. In fact there are signs that all major roads are becoming quieter outside of peak hours as fuel prices increase, and hard pressed motorists look to cut their mileage. At the same time many road surfaces, minor and major, have been neglected for years and need urgent repair. Perhaps the Government should prioritise this essential remedial work before rushing into expanding the network.

  33. Dan H.
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    To my mind there are two major questions which urgently need a political answer, namely precisely what is so wonderful about the European Union that we must be compelled to carry on implementing its diktats and funding its lavish consumption of our taxes, and secondly why has this Government not reconsidered the ruinous expense of the Climate Change bill?

    Both these policies needlessly and uselessly waste money, whilst conferring no net benefit on the UK. This money could be used much more wisely here, by reducing or eliminating the structural deficit and then perhaps in reducing the tax burden upon us all. Yet no consideration of such issues is forthcoming. Why not?

    • uanime5
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      1) What’s wonderful about the EU is being able to trade with other EU countries and being able to influence EU laws.

      2) The cost of climate change is greater than the cost of averting it.

      3) The deficit was £163 billion in 2011. Even if the UK left the EU without reducing trade with them and stopped doing anything to reduce climate change the vast majority of the deficit would remain.

      • ian wragg
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        What are you on. Non EU countries trade with the EU without problem and as we have seen with QMV, we have no influence on EU law whatsoever.
        Get a life man.

        • uanime5
          Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

          Non-EU countries have to negotiate trade contracts can have quotas put on them, such as China’s textiles quota.

          Just because someone voted against something you liked doesn’t mean there’s no democracy.

  34. BobE
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Make the A34 into a motorway down to the south coast.
    Run a new motorway directly from Dover west accross to join the previously mentioned new M34.
    Northbound trucks would be able to skirt the M25.
    Everybody would win.

    • Bazman
      Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I use this route and direction quite often. The roads are pretty good already. How about another three decks on the M25 instead?

  35. RDM
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    “The whole of the UK is short of infrastructure”

    Then create a Development Bank like the one’s Germany and the USA has, and help the private sector take longer term Risks. One Possibility, more Banking competition is another, or some combination of both?

    The alternative is more PFI? Fools gold!

    I live within the S Wales Valleys; I know for a number of old coal mines. I wonder if a Bank would finance collecting gas from them (Not the same as Fracking)?

    Just an idea. There are so many opportunities out there, it’s a crime there is so much unemployment (and people stuck in no hoper jobs), all because the Banks cannot lend to such opportunities.



  36. Winston Smith
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I’ve posted this several times on here. Why do people from Cornwall to Norwich to Cardiff to the Midlands to Margate have to travel to London to fly to many long-haul destinations and to find competitive shot-haul flights? LHR is at 99% capacity. Birmingham at 50%. There are many underused airports all over England. It is the Govt’s role to have a strategy that maximises the infrastructure in place and to spread the jobs and wealth across England. This ties in with the problem of centralisation in London. No other competitor or developed nation has such a centralised economy as the UK.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Winston Smith,

      I think it is a case of boiling a frog. I guess:

      Heathrow has been allowed to grow so as to be a premier global hub. This cannot be criticised in itself (… ignoring the air quality etc. arguments). This focus has limited / stopped the growth of regional hubs. As air traffic has concentrated above the capital slots for UK internal flights have been cut to allow for more international. This has limited the passenger numbers in some smaller UK airports that relied on quick hops to London – reducing number of these, together with added security hassles even for short internal flights and the industry structure progressively changes. (With falling numbers close proximity competition falls. Some remainswith Gatwick-Heathrow and LiverpoolJL-Manchester.)

      Manchester has had a long runway but too far from London to compete for some of the long haul traffic. As you say Birmingham has spare capacity but has not had the long runway – so was squeezed between Manchester and Heathrow. Finally in ~2014 B’ham should have the long runway (it should have happened by the Olympics, perhaps A45 re-routing delays?). I believe some international airlines that don’t dominate at Heathrow see B’ham as an opportunity (perhaps those focussed on Heathrow prefer a continued distorted market?), and if the Govt got on with the HS2 links from ‘Birmingham Interchange’ to London (2026!) and Heathrow (2033!) then more long haul competition could develop. {Whether this could ever free up enough space at Heathrow for inter-regional flying to get slots back, and hence passenger numbers – who knows}

      Anyway my wish list:-

      Birmingham runway extension actually gets completed (likely)
      HS2 gets built and built sooner (possible, highly unlikely – HS2 is a no-brainer and yet read the comments on here)
      Security for internal flights is somehow speeded up (unlikely – no driving force without more internal London slots)
      Air passenger duty restructured (unlikely – environmentalism, and perhaps Chancellor using EU as an excuse)

      Reply Much of the pattern of airport provision has been determined by passenger choice,not by government. Governments have continuously tried to promote regional airports, and have limited Heathrow expansion. Despite this more and more people have wanted to fly to and from Heathrow. Manchester is becoming a successful airport for the north, and is doing to Liverpool, Leeds etc what Heathrow has done to Birmingham. By definition you cannot have lots of hub airports.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        That is just not true. LHR has had Terminal 4 and 5 built in recent years. My friend in Wallsall would much rather fly long-haul or competitive short-haul from Birmingham than travel to Heathrow and Gatwick and stay in a hotel or with friends. Its ludicrous that so many people are forced to use London airports because the Govt fails to work effectively. Weasel excuses, JR.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I don’t disagree on the first part of JR’s reply, indeed I thought I was saying the standard – micromotives and macrooutcomes – but my next point is having observed and seen those, one can look at how the agglomeration takes (has taken) place and modify structure/rules with that in mind.

  37. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    It seems that some people will not be happy until every inch of the UK is covered with concrete!

  38. uanime5
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard of the London underground but never the Birmingham, Manchester, or Yorkshire equivalent. This is one advantage London has that other cities do not. Perhaps the mayors of large cities should assess whether their city would benefit from an underground network.

    The intercity transport in London is also very good with frequent buses and trains. Unsure if it’s as easy to travel around other major UK cities.

    • libertarian
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      The Tyne and Wear Metro opened in 1980

      The Glasgow Subway opened in about 1896

      The Midland Metro is the tram line linking Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton, via West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston.

      Leeds has a city metro overland railway system

  39. Peter Curd
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    For several months I commuted from south Reading to West Sussex and found that every single road along the route was designed to go in to, or of course out of, London with no option to go diagonally or even horizontally west/east outside of London. Getting to Kent or Sussex is many times faster via the M25 at night when you can cruise the entire journey, and slow on any route during the day.

    I visit Devon many times a year to see family and the M4/M5 route is the only feasible option – the A303 is an appalling road; always busy, always congested and always frustrating. It is much prettier though. I don’t want to see the A303 turned into a motorway and destroying the local countryside but at least finishing the dual carriageway so you don’t spend 50 miles behind a tractor would make an amazing difference. Rail is really the only way to get to Devon conveniently, but with everything a “country mile” apart a car is necessary for anything longer than a weekend visit.

    The fact that we Southerners view a trip to Brighton, 55 miles as the crow flies, as a mammoth trip is frightening to me. My American colleagues drive further than that to buy bread and milk.

    • Bob
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      @Peter Curd

      “My American colleagues drive further than that to buy bread and milk.”

      Doesn’t their milkman deliver bread?

  40. Mactheknife
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    John, your geography is a little “off”.

    ” East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall, Lincolnshire and Northumberland have all been left out of the motorway age”.

    The M180 for the most part travels across Lincolnshire to the industrial /port areas of Immingham and Grimsby, although you associate it with Yorkshire in your piece. The A1 also goes through Lincolnshire north to south and has recently undergone improvements to speed up traffic i.e. getting rid of roundabouts which created bottlenecks.

    As for your comments on water, I once was told that we only collect something like 4% of the UK rainfall which, if true, seems very little and probably is a major factor in our current predicament.

    For me infrastructure includes bridges underpasses, tunnels etc and most of our busy roads could benefit from these modifications. When they built an inner relief road in my area local residents warned the local authority that putting roundabouts in a dual carriageway would create problems but we were told it was “too expensive” to have an underpass or flyover. Since building the road they have had to add filter lanes and widen the roundabouts to ease congestion on more than one occassion. Once again no forsight, planning or listening to the wishes of local residents and high cost modifications when it would have been cheaper to do what was asked originally.

    Infrastructure also includes airports and is strikes me that our “National Carrier” BA, is not really our national carrier at all as 99% of flights depart from London & south east – our regions are once again ignored. Why is it that foriegn carriers operate European (with intercontinetal connections) from our regional airports ?

    Reply: Most of Lincolnshire has no motorway through it. Similarly Devon, which has a motorway out of it from Exeter.

    • Bazman
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I have made this observation number of times East Anglia and a lot of the East has been left out of the motorway age. I call Norwich a secret city because of this. Does have some very good a fast A roads which you do not see in other parts of the country and Hunstanton to Cromer part of the coast is a very Beautiful part of Britain I suspect is only known by retired caravanners. I have explored this area quite well on a high powered motorbike most summers. The Fens is a flat and fast area for these machines and you feel like you are near the sea. An experience you would not get in a car. The advantage of the motorways not reaching this area is a more unspoilt countryside and less crime as motorways always bring problems as well as wealth. The M6 has strong evidence of this historically changing insignificant villages like Forton into areas which service the motorway.

    • Mactheknife
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Licolnshire has most of the M180 and the A1 with various major A roads leading from these two. It is a rural county with very few large towns or cities and therefore probably has no need for a major motorway network. There are currently large towns, cities and conurbations that do need infrastructure developemnt which are not getting it. These must be prioritised.

      • Robert Taggart
        Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        A decent road from Derby to Skeggy would have been a blessing ! (1967-85).

  41. Daedalus
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Having had the misfortune to have to use the A14 and the A17/A47 to go to various places in East Anglia/ Norfolk over the last 12 months I can only say that north and south motorways need to be put in urgently. How Ipswich, Lowestoft, Felixstowe, Gt Yarmouth and Norwich have been so ignored beggars belief.
    And the fact that the road north of Newcastle to Edinburgh is not motorway is criminal.

  42. Mark
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Much of the motorway network is now approaching 50 years old. A good deal of it is showing that age, and needs proper maintenance with relaying of carriageways. Some of it that bears the heaviest truck traffic is suffering from the impact of the larger maximum axle weights the EU mandates be permitted: road damage escalates with the fourth power of axle weight. We need to fix what’s broken to begin with.

  43. Electro-Kevin
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    The railways could be improved with longer trains on key services (15 coaches were used under BR – unthinkable except on HS1.) Longer platforms to accommodate them. Passing loops to enable long distance trains to pass short-haul stopping services.

    The new towns which are obviously going to need to be built within range of rail hubs.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the passing loops could have turn-back points built with them. This would enable:

      – Shorter possessions needed for engineering work
      – More places to reverse rescue sets or failed trains

      I suppose more point work means more to go wrong. The experts would be able to evaluate.


      We need to be getting rid of level crossings on lines above a certain speed. Say 70mph. This would be a better investment than on-board safety such as seat belts or lockable overhead stowage (as some suggest.)

      These suggestions merely as a way of improving existing infrastructure without major investment in new routes (which would also be nice.)

      It will be interesting to see what comes of South West Train’s take-over of infrastructure as regard to franchise modelling.

  44. Boffin
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    RAIL – I’m not affected by the proposed HS2, just aghast at the purblind stupidity of such folly; a vanity project spurred by the lobby seeking rich pickings from construction. Instead, we should be upgrading the underutilised lines along Ashford – Reigate – Guildford – Oxford – Birmingham to allow the larger railcars used throughout Europe to reach our industrial centres. (Preferably, through to Holyhead and claim European infrastructure funding). The cost of some ?50 prefabricated replacement bridge works and some relatively short relief track works would be trivial, by comparison.

    POWER. Large-scale wind power is nonsense; uneconomic, and published analysis of Germany’s experience indicates that too big a wind sector may generate more CO2 due to need to keep thermal backup running inefficiently. Our need for nuclear stations is urgent; our gas supplies are very vulnerable right now. The USA has wisely encouraged nuclear investment by loan guarantees, rather than subsidies and tariff nobbling.
    Even the most efficient thermal stations waste nearly half the energy input, as low-grade heat in the unavoidable cooling part of the thermodynamic cycle. Much of this can be recovered for use in district heating (q.v. The Hague, for one, >30 years ago!). Massive energy saving, but requiring navvying investment in warmwater distribution infrastructure.

  45. Bickers
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    The economy would benefit greatly from a well thought through 10>15 year national infrastructure investment programme. However, it’ll never happen from an affordability perspective until the Government’s share of GDP is reduced to well below 40% and the burden of business red tape & regulation emanating from Brussels via Whitehall is slashed.

  46. Boffin
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    RAIL – I’m not affected by the proposed HS2, just aghast at the purblind stupidity of such folly; a vanity project spurred by the lobby seeking rich pickings from construction. Instead, we should be upgrading the underutilised lines along Ashford – Reigate – Guildford – Oxford – Birmingham to allow the larger railcars used throughout Europe to reach our industrial centres. (Preferably, through to Holyhead and claim European infrastructure funding). The cost of some ?50 prefabricated replacement bridge works and some relatively short relief track works would be trivial, by comparison.

    POWER. Large-scale wind power is nonsense; uneconomic, and published analysis of Germany’s experience indicates that too big a wind sector may generate more CO2 due to need to keep thermal backup running inefficiently. Our need for nuclear stations is urgent; our gas supplies are very vulnerable right now. The USA has wisely encouraged nuclear investment by loan guarantees, rather than subsidies and tariff nobbling.
    Even the most efficient thermal stations waste nearly half the energy input, as low-grade heat in the unavoidable cooling part of the thermodynamic cycle. Much of this can be recovered for use in district heating (q.v. The Hague, for one, >30 years ago!). Enormous energy saving, but requiring navvying investment in warmwater distribution infrastructure.

  47. REPay
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm…so after ten years of the Balls Brown boom we managed not to do much infrastructure work. The major investment went into unneeded public sector jobs to swell the Labour Party’s vote bank. What we did do was on poor terms on contracts negotiated by couldn’t give a monkey’s civil servants that will keep us in the state sector dominated poverty to which the Labour Party aspires.

    • APL
      Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      REPay: “so after ten years of the Balls Brown boom we managed not to do much infrastructure work.”

      And the Tories are, as BAZMAN might say, ‘Ramming’ this home at every opportunity?

      No, I haven’t noticed that either.

      This administration have been handed a slam dunk, and they don’t know what to do with it. In short they are USELESS.

  48. David Armstrong
    Posted May 1, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Have lived in San Diego for a while now (23 years), but every time i return to Newcastle i wonder why there is no motorway link to Edinburgh.
    On the flip side it does leave the border country beautifully unspoiled !

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Question. Who would a Newcastle to Auld Reekie motorway benefit most ? – Geordies or those pesky Reevers ?!

  49. Trimperley
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    A more accurate Met Office is needed. Its forecast for April was “…drought impacts in the coming months are virtually inevitable.” (hat tip to Watts up with that?). Why spend millions on water infrastructure if the data driving the spending is inaccurate.

  50. Derek Emery
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Many ordinary members of the public on average pay now find they have a limited radius they can afford to look for work before travel costs become unaffordable. If your work is 20 miles away then at 40 mpg the fuel cost alone will be £6/day or well over £2000/year. The average wage is £25K and take home pay is about £19K so fuel alone costs over 10% of pay.
    Taking the M6 toll as indicative for private road charges the length is 27 miles and costs £5.50 for a car or 20P per mile.
    This would nearly double the cost of travelling and frankly is not affordable for ordinary people on average wages. The effect would be that it would halve the distance that they could afford to travel to work. There will be a downside for companies because this will halve the radius from their works that people can afford to travel. Area is a square measurement so it means that only about a quarter of people will be within an affordable catchment zone which considerably reduces their chances of finding suitable staff. I bet private companies will complain when they find they lose a high percentage of staff because they cannot afford the commute with private tolls.
    Away from London local transport is little more than a joke and far too expensive for people to get to work even if they could find suitable services and have the extra time to spend travelling.

  51. Steven Whitfield
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood has, falsely in my view tried to square lack of infrastructure with poor economic growth. By all means mention the fact that our leaders are allowing the population to reach 70 million, each requiring a little more water, oil and roadspace. within a few decades or less – but infrastructure isn’t a major factor in stifling economic growth. High taxes and regulations are far more important an issue.

    If we look back in time we managed to have a much larger manufacturing sector with pretty much the same transport network so that isn’t holding us back. How much roadspace do the newer industries like banking and finance need ? – I thought we were all supposed to be working at home via the internet now.

    After 100 years, Gardner didn’t stop manufacturing diesel engines in Manchester because of poor trasnsport links . Rover in 2006 didn’t stop manufacturing cars in Longbridge because of poor national infrastructure.
    Dana-Spicer axles in 2004 didn’t end 100’s of years of history by closing the historic forge in Bradford and moving it out to India because they were short of water or couldn’t move the stock about.
    More likely these companies and thousands like them didn’t change fast enough to stay competitive and were both overtaxed and regulated.But we need to find out exactly why we are losing companies like these before throwing money at the problem with unsustainable plans building more roads and planning to use more oil and water

  52. John Eustace
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    1. A rail link from Heathrow to the Great West line (and a third runway at Heathrow)
    2. Electrification of the Great West line
    3. A third bridge over the Thames at Reading continuing the 329M as was intended forty years ago but has been continually blocked by Oxfordshire.

  53. Robert Taggart
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    There remain some glaring gaps in our motorway network…
    The A1M – should be six lanes Lundun to Newcastle at least, then four lanes to Auld Reekie.
    Manchester to Sheffield – at least a four lane motorway needed – the Peak District at this point be so bleak no one other than the most fundamentalist environmentalist would object.
    Brum/Black Country M5 – M6 western by-pass – a six lane motorway to take through traffic out of the urban area completely. Oh, and to give our ears a rest at ‘drivetime’ on the radio… “M5/M6 at Bescot – long tail backs…”!
    For the record – oneself (46) has never even had a driving lesson – but be nonetheless a road user – busses / coaches.

  54. sm
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    We need to manage the cause and the symptoms. But addressing projects which create work in the UK ,encourage exports and reduce imports must be helpful until we get a competent democratic and representative government.

    1) Bridges and tunnels East London and probably in other major areas. Maybe joined up with a potential Boris Island, Barrage-hydro power solution with a link up Dover to Felixstow /the North.
    2) More automated DLR type light rail-linking to Rail/Airport hubs for cities/towns.
    3) Double decker motorways 1) M25? and perhaps covered sections of critical junctions.
    4) Intelligent planning laws to aid new transport refuel technologies (gas/electric/other) to ensure the motorways are accessible countrywide until viable competition is in place with a viable network. Gas powered cars seem sensible , if we produce start to produce a lot of electricity from gas?

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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