Autumn Budget 2017 - infrastructure, the environment and the regions

In this, the fourth of five articles on the budget, we focus on measures relating to infrastructure, the environment and the regions.

Transport and communications

Transforming Cities  Fund – a £1.7 billion fund will support intra-city transport, with half the monies allocated via competition for transport projects and the other half given proportionally to the six combined authorities with elected metro mayors, including £80 million for the West of England.

Pothole fund – an additional £45 million will be invested in 2017–18.

Digital rail upgrade – £84 million will be provided for in-cab digital signalling, and a further £5 million for development funding for a digital railway upgrade on the south-east and east London lines; a digital signalling scheme at Moorgate will also be funded.

National Infrastructure Commission freight study – an NIC study will examine the future of freight infrastructure, including truck platooning.

New railcard – a new railcard for those aged between 26 and 30 will be introduced in the spring of 2018.

5G testbeds and trials – a further £160 million will be invested in new 5G infrastructure, including testing facilities at the National Cyber Security Centre and an initial trial of 5G applications on roads to maximise benefits from self-driving cars.

Local full-fibre networks – a new £190 million challenge fund will encourage faster rollout of full-fibre networks, including to schools.

Rail passenger communications – up to £35 million will be invested to improve mobile communications for passengers, including an upgrade of the test track at Asfordby and new infrastructure on the Trans-Pennine route.

Environment and infrastructure delivery

Flood defences – a further £76 million will be spent on flood and coastal defences over the next three years, with £40 million focused on deprived communities at high flood risk.

Sustainable investment in energy – up to £557 million will be provided to support low-carbon electricity through further contracts for difference, but no new low-carbon electricity levies will be introduced until there is a fall in costs, which is not expected until 2025.

Construction – steps will be taken to improve the cost-effectiveness, productivity and timeliness of infrastructure delivery, including a presumption by various government departments in favour of offsite construction where this represents best value.

Infrastructure delivery – an update to the national infrastructure and construction pipeline will set out a ten-year projection of public and private infrastructure investment of around £600 billion.

Local growth

Northern Powerhouse – measures include £300 million to ensure HS2 infrastructure can accommodate future Northern Powerhouse and Midlands rail services, including faster services between Liverpool and York (via Manchester Piccadilly) and from the north of England to Leicester and London; steps towards a devolution deal with the North of Tyne authorities; £337 million to replace the Tyne and Wear Metro’s rolling stock; £5 million to redevelop the site of the steelworks at Redcar; £243 million for Greater Manchester; £4 million for Jodrell Bank; and discussions towards further devolution to the Liverpool City Region and the Tees Valley.

Midlands Engine – a second devolution deal has been agreed in principle with the West Midlands Mayor, including £6 million for a housing delivery taskforce, £5 million for a construction skills training scheme, and £250 million for local transport projects. £2 million will be provided to develop options for improving the Leamington Spa–Coventry railway line, and £4 million for congestion measures. A manufacturing zone will be piloted in the East Midlands.

Cambridge–Milton Keynes–Oxford corridor – there are plans to build up to a million new homes in the area by 2050, including the possibility of significant new settlements. The Oxford–Bedford (and Milton Keynes–Princes Risborough) section of East–West Rail will be completed by 2024, and a new East West Rail Company will accelerate delivery of the Bedford–Cambridge section. £5 million will be provided to develop proposals for Cambridge South station, and a study will consider enhancements to enable rail growth across Cambridgeshire. £300,000 will be provided to study opportunities for new stations, services and routes in the Oxfordshire rail corridor as a first step to opening a station at Cowley. Construction of the Oxford–Cambridge expressway will begin. A strategic infrastructure tariff will be considered among other mechanisms to capture rising land values from public investment. Work will begin towards a new joint statutory plan for Oxfordshire and further JSPs in the central and eastern sections.

London – there will be a pilot of 100% business rates retention in London in 2018–19, with the retained rates to be pooled by the Greater London Authority and London boroughs. Work on plans for Crossrail 2 will continue.

The South West – the government will work towards the provision of direct access from Bristol Temple Meads station to the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. £79 million will be provided towards a new A30 link road to improve access to the A391 at St Austell. The rural fuel duty rebate scheme for the Scilly Isles will be extended to 2023.

Other English regions – projects include the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission; a new bridge in Great Yarmouth; £12 million for the mayoral combined authorities; a new discounted interest rate for loans of up to £1 billion for local authorities for infrastructure projects; further pilots for business rates retention; a £5 million fund to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage in 2018, including activities in Bolton, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, London, Manchester and Nottingham and a statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square; £4.7 million to modernise the poppy factories in Richmond and Edinburgh; and £2 million for place-based cultural development.

Scotland – the Scottish Government’s budget will increase by £2 billion in the period to 2020–21. Progress continues towards a city deal for Stirling and a Tay cities deal; negotiations for a growth deal for the Borderlands will begin. The Scottish police and fire services will be made eligible for VAT refunds. The rural fuel duty rebate scheme for the Scottish islands will be extended until 2023. Funding from banking fines will be provided for mental health support for veterans in the Highlands.

Wales – the Welsh Government’s budget will increase by £1.2 billion in the period to 2020–21. Work will begin on growth deals for North Wales and Mid-Wales. Welsh rail projects include infrastructure upgrades to enable through services from London to Pembroke Dock to be retained once the new intercity express trains are introduced; the development of proposals for station improvements at Cardiff Central and Swansea; improving the relief lines between Cardiff and Severn Tunnel Junction; and improving journey times between Swansea and Cardiff, South Wales, Bristol and London, and on the North Wales main line. Funding will also be provided to develop proposals to improve journey times on the Wrexham–Bidston line. Tolls on the Severn bridges will be cut in January 2018 and abolished by the end of 2018, as previously announced. Banking fines will support training and work opportunities for veterans in north-east Wales.

Northern Ireland – the Northern Ireland Executive’s budget will increase by £660 million in the period to 2020–21. Negotiations for a Belfast city deal will begin, once the Executive is restored, as part of a plan for a comprehensive set of city deals across Northern Ireland. The government will publish a call for evidence on the impact of VAT and APD on tourism in the region. The commitment to a Northern Ireland rate of corporation tax is restated, subject to a restored Executive demonstrating that its finances are sustainable. Banking fines will fund support for injured police officers and their families.

For our other articles on the budget, see here.

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