25th August, 2023
Daily Express, by Max Channon
Road and rail projects are reportedly costing as much as 850% more in the UK than they do in the European Union (EU).
Vital infrastructure schemes are costing Britain so much more than its European neighbours due to mountains of red tape, the excessive demands made by the planning system and nimby opposition, campaigners have claimed. Researchers from campaign group Britain Remade found that the UK is, on average, spending twice as much on the construction of new railways and a tenth more per mile on roads than seven in seven other countries.
The study looked at and compared more than 200 different projects from Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, and Norway. It discovered that the HS2 rail link - which will connect Manchester, Birmingham and London with high-speed trains - was costing Britain 8.5 times more than comparable European projects.
Britain Remade is a new organisation campaigning to promote economic growth. It says it "puts forward practical solutions to the problems holding Britain back".
Its website states: "Britain is a great country. Our science and engineering shaped the modern world. But our economy has stalled and we have fallen behind. British families are now around £13,500 worse off than the average American family and almost £6,000 worse off than the average German family. If we cannot turn it around, we’re set to be overtaken by Poland within a decade."
Britain Remade's head of policy Sam Dumitriu said Britain could also bring infrastructure costs down by reducing the use of features such as tunnels, viaducts and bridges - using more standardised designs.
He said: "When Britain builds infrastructure, whether that is railways, underground systems, trams or roads, we tend to pay more – a lot more in some cases – than other countries in Europe.
“Why is that? One reason is that we give too much power to people objecting to projects and end up in a situation where schemes are gold-plated.
“Another is that we don’t use ‘off the shelf’ designs as much as we should do. And the planning system requires contractors to do huge amounts of work.”
Britain Remade highlighted how France built 21 new tram systems in the past quarter of a century, while the UK has only finished a handful. It said tramways in France ranged from as little as £29m per mile in Besançon in 2014 to as much as £60m per mile in Orleans in 2012.
However, the UK's cheapest new tram system is the second phase of Nottingham’s tramway - which cost £66m per mile. And a new tramway in Manchester cost £252m per mile.
In Spain, an 81-mile subway network in Madrid cost just £68m per mile. However, London’s new Elizabeth Line was “one of the world’s most expensive metro systems”, said Dumitriu, at £1.4bn per mile. A recent extension of the Northern Line to Battersea was less expensive but still cost £743m per mile, and £1.5bn in total.