Alongside the recent Budget the Government published a policy paper (Build Back Better: our plan for growth) outlining proposals for how public spending will support post-pandemic recovery and contribute towards long-term targets and priorities. In this article we will take a quick look at some of the implications and opportunities in the transport infrastructure sector.
An important part of the levelling up agenda has been to increase connections and improve transport links between cities. HS2 is the flagship policy in this regard however the Government also remains keen to forge ahead with developing regional links. In last year’s spending review £4.2 billion was dedicated to funding regional intra-city transport settlements and this year’s budget took steps towards implementing that commitment with initial funds confirmed for Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. The plan for growth outlines more transport infrastructure priorities including the A66 Northern Trans-Pennine upgrade (road) and the Northumberland Line (rail), both of which are identified as pathfinders for “Project Speed”. In addition, the Department for Transport is currently asking for bids for funding from the Restoring Your Railway Fund, allowing local authorities and community groups to develop plans for the reinstatement of local services and restoration of closed stations.
Rail in particular is a key focus of Project Speed with the government recently challenging the rail industry to develop new ways of working to halve the time and reduce the costs of rail infrastructure projects as part of its Project Speed approach. For its part the Government is to also publish a Union Connectivity Review which will make recommendations as to transport infrastructure aimed at levelling up regional inequalities. In addition, as we have covered previously the current Public Procurement Green Paper envisages substantial changes to the existing public procurement regime. In the plan for growth the rationale for these changes is identified as being (in part) to increase regulatory flexibility and opportunities for innovation; key elements in delivering infrastructure projects at speed.
It remains to be seen how the Government will fully reconcile its commitment to significant infrastructure investment with net zero commitments but, as things stand, there is significant political momentum behind delivering infrastructure schemes quickly. Providers will need to ensure that they are well placed to compete for opportunities as they arise, especially given the change in advertising requirements for public contracts since Brexit (by which the Find a Tender Service replaced the OJEU) and in light of the significant changes to procurement legislation that are anticipated within the next 12 months.
Bevan Brittan has a well-developed procurement offering, advising from inception through to contract award and beyond. We also have a dedicated procurement litigation support team, highly experienced in ensuring procurement challenges are resolved and capable of acting quickly and decisively to support either contracting authorities or challengers.