Infrastructure is the stuff that makes a country work. It is the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organisation to function properly. It is really important for the UK to have excellent infrastructure if it is to deliver a good quality of life for the people living there and to allow its businesses to compete across Europe and the world. The Government of the UK stated in 2013;
“The Government is determined to succeed in the global race by creating growth and delivering lasting prosperity. To build a strong economy, necessary for a fairer society, the UK needs infrastructure that competes with the best in the world. Long-term investment in infrastructure helps enhance productivity and creates jobs. It also means the UK is ready to face new challenges such as population growth and climate change and take full advantage of new technologies. The UK needs transport and communications networks that connect people and businesses; resilient, cost effective and sustainable energy supplies; and the science infrastructure which can give UK industry the edge over our competitors. 21st century infrastructure is needed for a 21st century Britain.”
There are many ways in which we can improve our infrastructure and the exam board ask you to focus on ports, roads, rail and airports.
Our roads are going to get significant amounts of money. Extra lanes can be added to the busiest motorways, the equivalent of at least an additional 221 lane miles in total by opening the hard shoulder to traffic and using new technology. The government will also build all available Highways Agency road projects to tackle the most congested parts of the network, including the A14 from Cambridge to Huntingdon and the M4 from London to Reading.
There is also big investment in our ports. Ports are vital ways for the UK to get the resources and products it needs to function as a major country. For example, the London Gateway is a development on the north bank of the River Thames in Thurrock, Essex. It is just 20 miles (32 km) east of central London and has a new deep-water port, which is able to handle the biggest container ships in the world.
The port also has one of Europe’s largest logistics parks, providing access by road and railways to London and the rest of Great Britain.
Airports connect the UK to the world. Heathrow and Gatwick are our major airports, and act as “hubs” allowing passengers to connect to the rest of the world. There is a proposal to expand Heathrow and add a third runway and sixth terminal building. There are many economic and social benefits to this but it would be damaging for people locally and for the environment.
Rail: High Speed Rail 2
HS2 is a major transport project designed to improve rail journeys in the UK and is split into 2 stages;
• The first phase between London and Birmingham will open in 2026.
• The second phase involves adding a V shaped section, with separate lines going from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
The objective of the scheme is to reduce journey times between the cities of the Northern part of England, and also to reduce the journey times to London. The idea is that businesses will function better with less loss of time spent travelling. The table below summarises the arguments that surround this massive project;
|Argument||Reasons for||Reasons against|
|It will help bridge the north-south divide||The rail link could act as a way of growing industries in the North. The government expects 70% of jobs created to be outside London.||Some professors say that similar projects in France, Spain and South Korea show that it is capitals that benefit from these projects by sucking more wealth to the centre, in this case, London.|
|The final bill could be very expensive||The UK Government normally invests £50bn a year in projects like this. This project is spread over 20 years so equates to just 10 months of that budget.||The original price for HS2 was £32.7bn but the government added a further £10bn to a maximum of £42.6bn. Rolling stock (the trains etc.) is expected to cost another £7.5bn.|
|It will help boost the UK economy||
HS2 is expected to generate 22,000 construction jobs in the next five years and once the entire line is running create 100,000 jobs.
|The HS2 Action Alliance, which campaigns against the project, says there is no independent research backing up the £15bn figure. The money could be used to boost businesses in other ways.|
|The demolition of homes and damage to rural England is too costly and disruptive||
Most of the disrupted homes are not in rural areas but are actually in London. The most disrupted area in the country will be to the north of London's Euston station. More than half of the properties affected by the scheme are here.
Infrastructure supporting the line will be built on 250 acres of green belt land. Sites of special scientific interest will be sliced through by the line.
|It will be good for the environment||The government claims that HS2 will move millions of air and road trips on to rail. It will open up space on the existing rail network for freight, taking hundreds of HGVs per hour off the roads.||
Some experts say that few high-speed train passengers will transfer from air; most users would otherwise have taken normal train services or simply not have made the trip.
|There are better value projects the UK could spend the money on||The government argues it is doing this anyway. Improving rail journey times between Leeds and Manchester and adding extra lanes to motorways.||One of the strongest arguments against HS2 is the opportunity cost. Spend £50bn on HS2 and that's £50bn gone from other projects. The UK is heavily in debt, public finances are stretched so spending must be carefully prioritised.|
NEXT TOPIC - UK - North South divide