I’m delighted to have been invited to attend this morning’s workshop (10 February 2014).
Ahead of last year’s Spending Review you challenged us to take bold steps to increase investment and make a long term commitment to capital infrastructure.
This morning has been about how we can best deliver the record investment in our road network that we announced last year.
I’d like to say a few words this morning about why we are investing in Britain’s roads, why, to be successful, we need to do things differently and why we want to work in partnership with you to make that happen.
I read an account of a parliamentary debate on the state of Britain’s roads recently.
It didn’t make for a comfortable bedtime story.
Honourable members were complaining to the minister that despite record increases in the traffic on the roads, investment simply hadn’t kept pace.
What was even worse was the government’s dire project management.
Stop-start spending meant works got off the ground but were endlessly delayed and then scaled back.
As projects stalled, costs increased and any improvements that did happen took years longer than projected.
One honourable member described the situation as “pathetic”.
Another was so irate that he proposed an amendment to the bill.
The amendment would give the transport minister automatic access to borrowing for road improvements - without needing Treasury approval.
The year was 1949.
And the debate was on the Special Roads Act that paved the way for Britain’s motorway network.
So while the motorways were eventually built over the next 50 years or so many fundamental problems have remained.
Today, the road network is even more essential to the UK’s economy.
Poor quality roads increase fuel consumption, increase delays, mean more emissions and act as a brake on growth.
But while over the last 50 years the volume of traffic in this country has risen dramatically, investment in the road network did not keep pace.
The UK now has more vehicles per kilometre of road than France, Germany or even the densely packed Netherlands.
Historically, road maintenance and repair have also been the first victims of short-term financial planning.
Investment in the road network has gone up and down faster than Bradley Wiggins through the Yorkshire Dales.
Short-termism that created uncertainty for the industry, delays to major projects and resulted in significant cost over runs.
To correct a legacy of historic underinvestment, we are putting record amounts into improving Britain’s transport network.
Modernising our roads, rail, air and local transport to help keep Britain moving.