Only smart spending will deliver a Green Industrial Revolutionby Andy McDonald / November 1, 2019 / Leave a comment
Like many western democracies, Britain urgently needs a substantial and ongoing programme of investment in infrastructure—both old and new. Such spending is a key lever of economic policy, given its potential to drive national growth and rebalance the economies of the north, the midlands and the southwest. Investment in transport is particularly important for driving employment and connectivity, as well as supporting the logistics and distribution supply chains that businesses depend on.
Our transport network is full. The number of passengers on our railways has doubled since 1995 (largely due to changes in employment patterns and housing costs, rather than rail privatisation being a success). So, the existing network is operating at near-full capacity, and neither new motorways nor domestic air travel are sustainable options to meet the mobility requirements of a British population expected to grow by 10m by the start of the 2030s.
Transport is the UK’s single largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the worst-performing sector when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. So it’s imperative that we invest to improve transport’s environmental record. As I said in a keynote speech at the Institute for Government earlier this year, Labour’s approach to future transport and infrastructure policy will have the UK’s climate obligations at its core.
I also said in my speech that future transport investment must be done within the parameters of departmental carbon budgets, to keep UK policy consistent with the aspirations of the Paris Agreement. And that’s why I want each sector—rail, road, aviation and maritime—to have carbon reduction targets in line with that departmental budget.
The right investment in transport will help to deliver Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution, while reforms to regulation can drive the required behavioural changes away from more polluting modes of travel. Stronger regulation will also help us to achieve better value for money from public investment in transport.
“The number of passengers on our railways has doubled since 1995”
Rail investment is critical to lowering emissions as well as creating new capacity. HS2 offers significant scope for a shift from road to rail, alongside alleviating congestion on roads, improving links to airports and enhancing freight connectivity to ports. The project has suffered from a woeful lack of political leadership from the Conservatives and urgently needs to get back on track. Delivery needs to be far more cost-effective and efficient, and more closely aligned with rail upgrades across the midlands and the north.
More broadly, low interest rates should provide the next government with an opportunity to invest in infrastructure and address the politically-motivated budget cuts to public investment which have so damaged this country since the early 2010s. Through a National Transformation Fund Labour would invest in Northern Powerhouse Rail and we are committed to introducing 2.5m interest-free loans for the purchase of electric cars. These examples are only a few of many which would deliver the investment to rebalance the UK economy.