In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor highlighted the government’s commitment to developing the nation’s infrastructure as part of the bid to boost economic growth and productivity, as well as helping secure energy independence and transitioning to net zero. He recommitted the government to investing over £600 billion over the next five years, and this figure includes maintaining the government’s commitment to delivering major infrastructure products. He also reaffirmed support for digital infrastructure investment, with goals of reaching at least 85% gigabit-capable broadband coverage by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030.
A quick analysis, though, shows that nothing has changed in terms of infrastructure. The commitments made today are the same made by previous governments, and do not indicate a shift in thinking or focus. The cost of infrastructure required for automated vehicles alone will far exceed the amount the government plans on spending, which is already partly earmarked for installation of more EV charging points. The best that can be said is that while public spending in other areas is expected to be cut in the years ahead, infrastructure investment appears to be protected.
As part of the government’s efforts to raise revenue, the Chancellor announced that all EVs will be charged tax from 2025. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has stated that a successful transition to electric vehicles will depend on reassuring consumers they can afford these new technologies. EVs are currently more expensive to buy and insure than internal combustion engine powered (ICE) vehicles, and recent news reports show that the rising price of electricity means EV drivers predominantly using rapid chargers are paying nearly as much per mile as drivers of petrol cars. In making this decision, the government risks reducing public appetite for the technology.
The SMMT has informed the government that the goal of banning the sale of all new ICE vehicles by 2030 is immensely challenging and requires further commitments across the industry. This conforms with our own understanding. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will have done nothing to assist the government in hitting its own target.
We have expressed our concerns previously that the government does not fully grasp the scale and cost of the changes it wants to bring about across the UK’s transport sector. If it intends to meet its very ambitious goals, it needs to engage closely with stakeholders in this area and develop a comprehensive plan that is properly funded.