Infrastructure programme: Beware - major roadworks ahead


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The Independent Online

Britain's road and rail networks are to get a multibillion pound upgrade as George Osborne attempts to build his way to economic recovery.

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The Chancellor set out details yesterday of a major infrastructure programme to generate work for struggling small business and create thousands of jobs. Some 35 new transport schemes got the go-ahead, including a new train route between Oxford and Bedford and the electrification of the TransPennine link between Manchester and Leeds in a move to cut journey times.

He also confirmed plans to build new free and primary schools, as well as pressing ahead with the roll-out of broadband coverage across the country.

Airports will be expanded, while power stations and waste facilities built as part of the £30bn infrastructure programme, of which £5bn would be found from cuts elsewhere in government spending.

Mr Osborne said the moves were necessary because Britain risked "falling behind the rest of the world" without significant investment in its key transport links. But critics yesterday warned that the programme was a drop in the ocean of overall spending and might not be enough to kick-start recovery.

Roadworks loom for much of the country as a series of motorways and A-roads are improved. They include the construction of the Manchester Airport and Crewe link roads as well as the widening of the A14 which links the port of Felixstowe to the Midlands.

New rail stations will be built in Yorkshire and more trams provided, and tolls on the Humber Bridge will be halved. The Chancellor also pledged to bring forward investment on the Tyne and Wear Metro and allocated £50m to help to safeguard the overnight sleeper train link between London and Scotland.

He backed work on a new bridge over the Thames between Kent and Essex and said other sites for crossings of the river. He also signalled his support the extension of London Underground's Northern Line to Battersea, south London. Mr Osborne ruled out a third runway at Heathrow airport but said that all other options would be explored "for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status" – a hint that Boris Johnson's plans to build a new airport off the Kent coast would be scrutinised.

The programme included an extra £1.2bn for schools, about half of it to fund the creation of 100 new free schools and the rest to build extra primary school places in inner-city areas in places such as London and Birmingham.Mr Osborne pledged to overhaul the country's digital links, saying that the Government was funding plans to bring superfast broadband to 90 per cent of homes and businesses across the country. "World-leading, superfast broadband and Wi-Fi connections" would be brought to the nation's four capitals – London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – as well as six major cities to be chosen in a competition, he said.