Transport infrastructure, particularly the road networks, 'desperately needs investment'

We have been through uncertain times. General elections can put businesses on hold, with many decision makers choosing to delay investment decisions.

The polling companies reported the closest election in decades prior to 7 May, but the Tory win presents us with a renewed confidence in the market thanks to the formation of a stable government.

The focus of economic recovery can now continue, but since in the supply chain we are reliant on a robust transport infrastructure to operate our national network successfully, we desperately need greater investment.

The biggest issues can be caused by the smallest problems. A "patch and run" approach to potholes, for example, does not disguise the need for new roads and resurfacing on a regular basis. The Road Investment Strategy is a good start, promising that £15.2 billion will be invested in our biggest roads and motorway networks over the next five years.

We’d like to see a tougher, fairer stance on European drivers. Under the current system, vehicles from across the continent use our roads for free, do not pay tax, and do not always buy fuel.

The HGV levy, introduced in 2014, has been a great success, charging 112,000 vehicles from 76 countries, and raising more than £17 million from foreign lorries to invest back into our road networks.

But there are other human resource issues too which this government should not ignore. There’s a UK-wide shortage of drivers, with experts suggesting we need an extra 150,000 drivers by 2020. With the average age of drivers exceeding the national average, and mass retirement looming, the industry, and the Department for Transport (DfT), will have a challenge to recruit, train, and retain more people in order to keep our supply chain functioning.

We anticipate that HS2 will be high on the agenda for the Conservative government, as Robert Goodwill, responsible for Phase 1, is still working for the DfT. Focus will also inevitably be on our airways, with the Airport Commission due to make a decision on whether to expand Gatwick or Heathrow later this year. However, the reality is our existing road networks should be a priority; we’d like to see a balanced transport strategy that takes into account all types of infrastructure.

We need a transport secretary who is unafraid to tackle tough issues like these to ensure infrastructure that is fit for purpose for the entire supply chain across the UK. With Patrick McLoughlin remaining in position, that means only five other politicians have ever been in the role for longer. Other re-appointments include Claire Perry as parliamentary under-secretary of state, responsible for major projects such as Crossrail, freight, logistics, and rail franchising, demonstrating an intention to continue with plans without unnecessary upheaval.

☛ Kevin Buchanan is group managing director at Pall-Ex

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