Secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin has said that there has never been a better opportunity to achieve change in infrastructure than we have today.
McLoughlin made the statement as part of his keynote speech at the Construction News Summit held in London today.
“This is a country accustomed to a Victorian transport infrastructure, stuck together with bits of 20th century sticking plaster,” he said. “Whole generations have never travelled on a new, cutting edge transport system.
“But just look at what the redevelopment of St Pancras and then Kings Cross achieved in London. And in the past few weeks, how the re-opening of Birmingham New Street and Manchester Victoria stations have been rapturously reviewed by the people of those cities.
“I think the opening of Crossrail will continue the process of not just transforming journeys but transforming people’s perception of what transport can do for a city.
“And ultimately, I believe HS2 can change the way thousands of youngsters think about careers in construction and infrastructure.”
McLoughlin used his speech to underline the skills challenge that faces the sector. He said that the UK had been a “trailblazer” in investing in transport engineering in the 19th century but added that in the 20th century “when we stopped investing in transport, we stopped investing in skills”.
He said: “We’re living with the legacy of that underinvestment today. Not just on our roads and railways, but in our workforce too.
“So when we’re investing £70bn in transport in this parliament alone, we need a new generation of engineers, designers and construction professionals, as well as highly skilled people to operate the networks once they’re opened.”
McLoughlin concluded by saying that the industry face unprecedented challenge “but we also have an unprecedented opportunity. Let’s grasp it”.