Shirley to bring 'fresh perspective' to DfT


The transport secretary has appointed Darren Shirley, currently chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, to lead the Department for Transport’s (DfT) new Acceleration Unit.

The DfT said a new team of specialists will join it in order to tackle delays to infrastructure projects and drive forward progress for passengers. Officials said the unit will engage experts with significant experience in delivering infrastructure projects.

The department also announced a list of relatively small spending commitments for road and rail.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘As Britain begins to get moving once again after four months of lockdown, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.'


Mr Shirley (pictured), who previously worked at Which?, said: ‘I am delighted to take on this important new role, bringing a fresh perspective and external advice to accelerate the delivery of key infrastructure projects and programmes.

‘The breadth and depth of expertise in my new team will stand us in a good stead as we look to deliver the schemes that will help the country to rebuild faster through decarbonising the transport system and levelling up Britain as we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis.’

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘Putting investment in rail on the fast track is good news for communities and businesses across Britain. Rail companies will continue to work together to deliver vital improvements to make our railway greener and support job creation.’

Marie-Claude Hemming, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said: ‘We look forward to engaging with the DfT’s Acceleration Unit with our members, to ensure everything possible is done to speed up schemes across the UK, which will drive economic growth, create jobs, and secure the recovery of the UK economy.’

As well as some new money for rail services in Wales, the DfT announced

  • £1.1m for Network Rail to develop short-term plans to relieve overcrowding at London Liverpool Street station
  • funding to complete the £6.4m scheme to build a new second footbridge serving all four platforms at St Albans City station, easing congestion and addressing safety issues at an increasingly busy station with work due to start early 2021 and be complete by January 2022
  • £4m to develop the design phase for gauge enhancement and track improvements for freight trains on Great Western, Midland Main Lines and at Darlington to allow longer intermodal freight trains to operate from Teesport to Yorkshire, with the Darlington scheme delivered by October 2020
  • £9.74m for signalling and infrastructure enhancements delivered on the Wessex route at Twickenham, Bracknell and Virginia Water as part of the Feltham and Wokingham Signalling Renewal Programme

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