An HS2 construction site in Birmingham. Photo: Nick Maslen / Alamy Stock Photo

Policy report: climate change is bringing our ageing travel links into focus

Our national utilities need an ambitious upgrade to prepare for future environmental shocks
July 15, 2021

Interest rates look set to remain low indefinitely, so now is an attractive time for making long-term investments. Meanwhile, the climate crisis—mentioned by both transport secretary Grant Shapps and infrastructure expert John Armitt—creates a pressing need to upgrade our national utilities. Only after long years of austerity are these two arguments being put together, but it is still welcome to see influential voices grabbing them with gusto.

Shapps’s pitch is strikingly ambitious. He wants the UK’s economy to be the biggest in Europe—a challenge made all the harder because we have just quit its economic club.

He plans to create this growth by levelling-up post-industrial areas through what sounds a lot like a Green New Deal, though he does not use the phrase, which is more associated with Labour and the left. Despite saying he doesn’t want to “pick winners,” Shapps is a million miles from Thatcher: the state, he asserts, is the “ultimate facilitator.” 

We will see if Shapps’s bold promises come to fruition. But along with ambition, as Armitt warns, we need caution. Resilience must be built into our infrastructure, so it can survive coming environmental crises and unforeseen disasters in the future.