The Department for Transport is launching an “Acceleration Unit” to speed up the delivery of transport projects across the UK, it has been confirmed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a new Acceleration Unit for transport projects which aims to ensure that vital rail and road upgrades will be delivered more quickly.
Mr Shapps said the new team of specialists, headed by Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Darren Shirley, will be in place next month.
He added that the acceleration of vital rail and road upgrades through the unit will “create jobs, increase connectivity and boost the economy”.
Mr Shapps said: “As Britain begins to get moving once again after four months of lockdown, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.
“We want to accelerate Britain’s recovery by investing in vital infrastructure that will help get businesses back on their feet, create jobs to replace those that have been lost and level up our country.
“The creation of our new Acceleration Unit and investment in our roads and railways will ensure we build back better, greener and faster in the future.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak added: “This £360 million investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow.”
The Acceleration Unit will also engage with experts including Highways England’s director of complex infrastructure projects, Chris Taylor and Mark Reynolds of MACE, who oversaw the construction of the Nightingale hospital in East London in nine days, the Department for Transport said.
Mr Shirley, newly-appointed Head of the Acceleration Unit, said: “I am delighted to take on this important new role, bringing a fresh perspective and external advice to accelerate the delivery of key infrastructure projects and programmes.
“The breadth and depth of expertise in my new team will stand us in a good stead as we look to deliver the schemes that will help the country to rebuild faster through decarbonising the transport system and levelling up Britain as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”
Mr Shapps also announced investment for other road and rail projects on Friday, including £1.1 million for Network Rail to develop short-term plans to relieve overcrowding at London Liverpool Street Station and £6.4 million to build a second footbridge at St Albans City Station.
Other pledges included £4 million to develop the design phase for track improvements for freight trains on Great Western, Midland Mainlines and at Darlington and £9.74 million for signalling and infrastructure enhancements delivered on the Wessex route at Twickenham, Bracknell and Virginia Water as part of the Feltham and Wokingham Signalling Renewal Programme.
Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “Business will welcome government’s commitment to put infrastructure delivery at the heart of the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The right programmes of transport investment will not only help the UK economy build back better, but will help drive regional prosperity, boost connectivity and provide crucial support to the UK construction sector, giving them the confidence to retain jobs and invest for the future.
“The establishment of a new Acceleration Unit is also positive news and can help ensure that Government moves quickly from promises of investment to action.
“Now it will be vital that this new team works collaboratively with industry, focusing not just on speed but delivering sustainable, high-quality transport improvements which will provide long-term value for communities across the UK.”
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group which represents the rail industry, added: “Putting investment in rail on the fast track is good news for communities and businesses across Britain.
“Rail companies will continue to work together to deliver vital improvements to make our railway greener and support job creation.”
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “It is positive news that the Government has set up a new unit to accelerate transport projects, as well as providing £340 million for rail schemes in Wales.
“Speeding up rail projects is a clear way in which the Government can spur green economic growth, jobs and investment around the UK following the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.