Time to tackle north-south divide with infrastructure drive

01 November 2017

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has urged the Conservative government to invest in Britain’s infrastructure after the independent Industrial Strategy Commission today called on ministers to provide every citizen with decent transport, schools, hospitals and digital access.


‘Investing in infrastructure – in our railway, in roads, and in runways – is essential for the economic success of a nation,’ said Mick. ‘Britain needs significant investment – in fast, reliable broadband as well as rail, road and air links – because the ability to move people and goods around the country and provide services over the internet is the platform on which we will deliver employment, growth, and national prosperity.’


‘ASLEF has always argued for investment in the railway. Partly because we know it will be good for Britain. And partly, frankly, because it should be good for us. More investment will mean more trains, and more trains will mean more train drivers. But the Conservative Party is instinctively reluctant to invest public money, even though many Tory MPs admit, privately, that the private sector cannot and will not deliver what we need.’


The latest World Economic Forum report ranks the United Kingdom 24th out of 138 countries in the world – a damning indictment – on the quality of national infrastructure and notes that the UK invests less in infrastructure, as a share of GDP, compared with similar first world countries– spending around 17% of GDP compared to 21% in France and 23% in Japan.


‘Public investment in infrastructure pays for itself very quickly,’ said Mick. ‘It also improves the quality of jobs, skills and training and enhances the lives of citizens through improvements to housing, transport and the digital economy as well as reducing carbon emissions. That’s why we welcomed the Labour Party’s pledge to create a national investment bank in order to rebuild Britain’s industry.


‘And that’s why we want greater infrastructure investment – as a way of stimulating the British economy to create good quality, sustainable jobs in a new economy which works for all, not just the few, and will create better lives for the people who live and work in Britain.


‘It will also tackle the north-south divide. Everyone in this country, no matter where they live, should have access to the quality of infrastructure that, at the moment, only some people enjoy. Chris Grayling’s decision to renege on the Tories’ pledge to modernise Britain’s railway system – the much-needed and long-promised plan to fully electrify the Midland main line, parts of the Lake District, and the Great Western, was yet another reminder of the lack of ambition for the future which has beset the railway since privatisation and confirms that the government’s rail policy is no more than make do and mend.’

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