Hardly a day goes by without a headline proclaiming the transformation of tarmac and concrete into well-paid, sustainable jobs. These claims for infrastructure projects are a lot like alchemy and divert attention away from other, more sustainable, options for job creation.

An excellent example is the Heysham M6 link road, a four-mile stretch that was approved for construction in March this year at a cost of £123m. Over a three-year period, Lancashire county council reduced its estimate of the number of jobs that the project would create by a factor of 10, down from 6,000 to 600.

In this post on the Guardian Professional Network blog, John Whitelegg, an associate of SEI’s York Centre, notes that exaggerated and scientifically unproven job creation claims about road projects have been made for years, and this matters for several reasons:

  • Decisions should be taken on the basis of high-quality evidence, audit and evaluation. This guarantees best value and prudent use of scarce resources at a time of deep cuts and austerity.
  • Transport spending usually contributes to higher demand for travel and transport. This means more car journeys, more road freight, more air travel and more high-speed rail travel and these are very significant components of growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that challenge all our climate change policies.
  • Transport spending justified wholly or in part by exaggerated claims around job creation represents a wasted opportunity. Creating jobs in local economies and supporting sustainability objectives (e.g. Freiburg, in Germany, has created 10,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector) can be achieved in many different ways and at lower cost per job than a motorway, airport or high-speed rail link. Importantly, these jobs can be created in every local economy, for example by implementing an integrated public transport system in every city in the UK with more than 100,000 people (as in Freiburg or Zurich).

Source: The Guardian, UK