As the UK gears up for Brexit, it is no surprise that Philip Hammond's first (and last) Autumn Statement "sets out policies which support the economy during this transition". It prioritises investment that will improve productivity and ultimately living standards.
National Productivity Investment Fund
The Autumn Statement announces a new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) which will be targeted at four areas that are critical for improving productivity: housing, transport, digital communications, and research and development (R&D). It provides for £23 billion of spending between 2017-18 and 2021-22 and will fund projects that demonstrate a clear and strong contribution to economic growth.
The Autumn Statement gives some detail of how the NPIF will be spent on transport, one of those key four areas:
Roads and local transport
· An additional £1.1 billion by 2020-21 in new funding to relieve congestion and deliver much-needed upgrades on local roads and public transport networks.
· An extra £220 million on strategic roads, to tackle key pinch-points. Full details will be announced in due course. As part of the second Roads Investment Strategy (2020 to 2025), the A66 will be dualled, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway will be delivered, and improvements will be made to the M60 North West quadrant. In addition, the government will continue to examine the case for improvements to the A1 in the East of England, and for improving connectivity between Sheffield and Manchester.
· A recommitment to the National Roads Fund announced at Summer Budget 2015.
A further £390 million by 2020-21 to support ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), renewable fuels, and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), including:
· £80 million for ULEV charging infrastructure
· £150 million in support for low emission buses and taxis
· £40 million of further support for the Plug-In-Car Grant
· £20 million for the development of alternative aviation and heavy goods vehicle fuels
· £100 million for new UK CAV testing infrastructure
· tax incentives for ULEVs in company tax and salary schemes
· 100% first-year allowances to companies investing in charge-points for electric vehicles until the end of March 2019.
Rail: capacity and smart ticketing
· From 2018-19 to 2020-21, the NPIF will allocate an additional £450 million to trial digital signalling technology, to expand capacity, and improve reliability. Further details will be announced in due course.
· Around £80 million will be allocated to accelerate the roll out of smart ticketing including season tickets for commuters in the UK’s major cities.
· £5 million in development funding for the Midlands Rail Hub, a programme of rail upgrades in and around central Birmingham that could provide up to 10 additional trains per hour.
Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor
Accepting the National Infrastructure Commission's recommendations, the Government will go ahead with an Oxford to Cambridge expressway, providing £27 million in development funding and also bringing forward £100 million to accelerate construction of the East West Rail line western section and allocating £10 million in development funding for the central rail section.
Transport flood resilience
£150 million to improve transport flood resilience: £100 million on roads and £50 million on rail resilience projects, including in Axe Valley (Devon), and Dawlish.
Local Majors Fund
The Autumn Statement announced business case development funding for six successful bids to the latest competition round of the Local Majors Fund, four of which are in the North of England:
· Suffolk Energy Gateway new road
· A1079/A164 Jocks Lodge Junction
· Shrewsbury North West Relief Road
· Tees Valley East-West connections
· Sheffield Mass Transit Scheme
· Warrington Waterfront western link
Northern Powerhouse Strategy
Finally, alongside the Autumn Statement, HM Treasury published the Northern Powerhouse Strategy which explains how the government will work with local stakeholders to address key barriers to productivity in the North. One of these barriers is connectivity and improving connections between towns and cities in the North is "at the heart of our plans to build a Northern Powerhouse". Although the strategy does not say anything new on transport (other than confirming the Manchester M60 North West Quadrant and the Pennines A66 dualling will be included as part of the next Road Investment Strategy), it is encouraging to see that Philip Hammond is continuing George Osborne's vision of a Northern Powerhouse.