April 2, 2013 / 12:05 AM / 5 years ago

Britain should focus on roads, not rail - survey

LONDON (Reuters) - British manufacturing firms want the government to shift public infrastructure spending away from rail to focus on upgrading the road network, a poll published on Tuesday showed.

The survey, conducted by industry body EEF, showed that 72 percent of 209 firms who took part cited the road network as the number one priority for investment in transport, compared with just 6 percent for rail.

The current coalition and the previous Labour government put rail at the heart of their infrastructure plans. Both backed the 16 billion-pound Crossrail project in London and the 33 billion-pound “HS2” high-speed rail line that will connect the capital to cities in the north of the country.

Between the fiscal years of 2005/06 and 2011/12, public capital spending on rail increased more than twice as quickly as spending on roads. In 2011/12 the government invested 6 billion pounds in rail, compared to 4.6 billion in roads.

Chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget in March that experts warned would not be enough to fix the country’s infrastructure backlog or promote economic growth.

The EEF also called for the creation of an independent commission to deliver infrastructure to take the politics out of long-term decision making.

Osborne said in his budget that he plans to “make greater use of independent advice”, alongside the expertise of former London Olympics CEO Paul Deighton who now works in the Treasury.

The government will publish its updated transport strategy later this year.

Reporting By Christine Murray; editing by Keiron Henderson

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