Investment in transport infrastructure is crucial in efforts to ensure that the economy is fit for the rest of the 21st century and beyond. The stakes are massive, so how can we identify, and develop the projects that will have the greatest impact on the economy and on our quality of life?
We believe there are three key aspects of project appraisal which need to be explored and developed to bring real clarity to decision making.
First, projects have traditionally been appraised on a “standalone” basis, but projects are increasingly viewed by their sponsors as parts of wider programmes.
Appraisals should therefore also assess the impact of the full programme and look at how these impacts would be affected if specific components of it were not to go ahead. This allows us to understand what value is being added by specific parts of the programme and whether the sum of the parts is indeed greater than the whole.
Second is the need to quantify the unquantifiable. What will the impact of a project be a national park or a local landmark? How will it affect air quality or visual amenity? And will improvements in long distance connectivity affect business productivity. This kind of analysis requires courage to develop new approaches but it can be successfully done.
And finally, policymakers have traditionally focussed on the Value for Money of investments – measured by their Benefit to Cost Ratio. But politicians and the general public are often at least as interested in impacts on GDP and jobs.
Our recent work has shown that it is possible to measure both these things holistically and in a joined up way. This allows opinions to coalesce rather than fragment and to bring the clarity to decision making that is required.
In an increasingly competitive economy, where funds are limited, the total appraisal of projects is a crucial tool for infrastructure decision making. If we get this right, we can create a transport network that will drive an inclusive and balanced economy that improves the lives of everyone.
To find out more about our work on appraisal, please read my blog or get in touch.