Secretary of State for Transport Rt. Hon Chris Grayling was the guest speaker at the LCCI’s annual transport dinner in November. In his introduction LCCI chairman Tony Pidgley pointed out that since last year’s event there had not only been a new transport secretary but also a new Prime Minister, and a new relationship with Europe. He continued: “I was hoping at this stage to be congratulating Chris Grayling on having given the go-ahead to not one but two runways – at Heathrow and Gatwick – as the Chamber has campaigned for over a number of years, there being a solid case for both.
“Nevertheless we hope that the government drives though the Heathrow expansion with real confidence over the coming year.”
Pidgley said that one of the great challenges everyone faces in the market currently was uncertainty which created indecision and undermined growth. “Uncertainty” he said, “makes some companies stop. They put everything on hold. Other companies see change as opportunity. They keep investing. They keep their people. And they make decisions that will generate wealth in the future.
Turning specifically to Brexit, Pidgley said that many were nervous of its implications, a factor which also contributed to uncertainty. “But I think the government understands this, and they want to give the right signals when it comes to investment in infrastructure.
“The Chamber has been researching what business leaders think will safeguard London and the UK economy. More than 80 per cent said that increased investment in infrastructure is important between now and the start of the Brexit negotiations. That is why we are delighted that Crossrail 2 and HS2 are going ahead.” The decision, he believed, sent a strong and positive signal to sectors across the board, including housing and construction.
But, Pidgley pointed out, none of the projects could be delivered unless there were the right skills and people in place. To achieve this would need investment in young people and getting the debate about work permits right. “Don’t forget that up to 50 per cent of the people working in construction across London are European.”
In his speech Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, outlined the government’s national transport priorities. Stating that the decision on both HS2 and Heathrow were major commitments by the government to drive forward infrastructure projects, he said that the government would look to focus on smaller projects in future which could deliver significant improvements for passengers and businesses with a shorter lead time than larger projects.
The LCCI annual transport dinner was sponsored by CH2M and Willis Towers Watson and took place at the Berkeley Hotel.