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Infrastructure blog

Connecting UK nations and Singapore Budget

23 March 2021

In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

Connecting UK nations and Singapore Budget
Singapore is banking on electric vehicles for greener transport. Image credit: Shutterstock

1. A strong case for a UK Strategic Transport Network?

Sir Peter Hendy has published his interim Union Connectivity Review.

One of the main findings is that while overall devolution to UK nations has been good for transport, it's also led to a lack of attention to connectivity between nations due to competing priorities and complex funding.

This means there's a strong case for oversight and a UK Strategic Transport Network (STN). This can support better assessment of transport routes and investment decisions, better management of people and freight movement, and improved partnership working between the UK government and devolved governments.

This STN would not replace existing bodies, but would complement them by providing a pan-UK strategic focus such as identifying passenger and freight movements UK-wide and ensuring these are considered in transport projects – similar to the Trans-European Transport Network. This would take place alongside better integration of all transport modes.

A technical review will also take place to consider a fixed link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, however this work will be taken forward outside the Union Connectivity Review.

Specific improvements identified in the interim review include faster and higher capacity connections from HS2 to Scotland and North Wales, congestion relief on the M4 in South Wales and better air links between England and Northern Ireland and England and Northern Scotland including a consultation on reducing air passenger duty.

The review also recommends increased port capacity, notably at Holyhead, and better connections from Belfast to north-west Northern Ireland and the Republic.

ICE's view

The interim UCR report recognises a need for strengthened connections that support levelling-up, with a proposed strategic approach to ensure that benefits are spread widely and align across four nations. However, as we’ve been clear throughout - any new fixed link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland should have clear and evidenced need articulated.

2. Singapore Budget continues drive to greener transport in line with decarbonisation plan

Singapore’s recent budget outlined new measures to deliver the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

As with most countries, the Singapore government is banking on electric vehicle (EV) adoption to decarbonise transport.

Announced measures in the Budget include scrapping registration fees for electric vehicles for two years to narrow the cost differential between electric cars and internal combustion engine cars, and the government will adjust road tax for electric cars so that they pay road tax comparable to internal combustion engine vehicles. Both measures are to increase the affordability of EVs.

The Singapore Green Plan is an ambitious programme to rapidly decarbonise the country. Which includes the ending of new diesel and petrol cars by 2025 and targets such as increasing the share of trips taken on public transport to 75% by 2030, and rolling out EV charging points including across public housing.

ICE's view

In order to manage the transition to a decarbonised economy you need a blueprint - the Singapore Green Plan 2030 provides that framework. Other countries should look to develop similar frameworks to help manage the transition, including guiding decisions on tax structures, policy trade-offs and investment priorities. ICE has previously outlined some of the decisions on trade-offs the UK Government needs to make.

In case you missed it...

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers