Covid-19: UK government launches Acceleration Unit and £360m extra investment for transportation

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The UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today (21 August 2020) launched a new Acceleration Unit to speed up transport infrastructure projects and build back better from Covid-19.  The New unit will boost the delivery times of major transport projects as new funding is announced.

Vital rail and road upgrades that will create jobs, increase connectivity, and boost the economy will be delivered more quickly, thanks to the Acceleration Unit, which will include a new team of specialists to join the Department for Transport (DfT) in order to tackle delays to infrastructure projects and drive forward progress.

The unit is set to be in place next month and will be directly accountable to the Transport Secretary. It will be led by Darren Shirley, currently chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and formerly of Which? magazine.

“This £360 million investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling-up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow,” said Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

Darren Shirley, head of the Acceleration Unit, said, “I am delighted to take on this important new role, bringing a fresh perspective and external advice to accelerate the delivery of key infrastructure projects and programmes. The breadth and depth of expertise in my new team will stand us in a good stead as we look to deliver the schemes that will help the country to rebuild faster through decarbonising the transport system and levelling up Britain as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”

The Acceleration Unit will also engage experts with significant experience in delivering infrastructure projects including Highways England’s director of complex Infrastructure projects, Chris Taylor, who oversaw the construction of the £1.5 billion A14 scheme which was not only delivered on budget but eight months ahead of schedule. This was partly thanks to efficient and innovative construction techniques such as trialling autonomous dumper trucks, 3D modelling and using prefabrication yards to build structures off-site and wheeling them into place when ready.

Highways England will also today launch their Strategic Business Plan and Delivery Plan, both for 2020-2025, which will set out how the company will take forward the ambitious plans set out in the government’s RIS2 strategy to improve England’s road network. The Delivery Plan will confirm the delivery schedule for road upgrades and schemes the government will be funding over the next five years.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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