Today’s Budget includes a raft of measures to improve our infrastructure network, from new homes to improved transport and efforts to ensure we keep up with the latest technological advances. These are all incredibly important to securing economic growth, and improving the lives of communities up and down the country. But to make the most of these opportunities we need a long-term strategy – and that’s what the National Infrastructure Commission is here to deliver.
I am delighted that in his Budget Statement the Chancellor chose to accept and follow recommendations from our work. In particular, the Government will be looking to match our ambition for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Growth Arc – one of the most economically-important parts of the country. The deal with Oxfordshire to deliver 100,000 new homes by 2031 is to be welcomed, especially if these include the first new towns in this country for half a century, and there’s a clear commitment to create vital road and rail links across the area through East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, and proposed new stations at Cambridge South and Cowley. I am hopeful that this is just the beginning, and that Ministers will work with local leaders to go even further and work towards delivering one million new homes across the Arc by 2050, matched with the infrastructure needed to support them.
The £35million announced for trials of line-side mobile connectivity, including on the Trans Pennine Route, follow recommendations in our Connected Future report, and I hope will lead to much-improved services for rail passengers in future. More widely, the funding new 5G and full fibre technology is a positive step, and one which I would like to see the Government build on to help ensure we can learn the lessons from 4G roll-out if we’re to become a world-leader in this field.
But today’s Budget also included measures that will be the focus of the Commission’s future work. Our next study will consider the vital issue of the country’s freight sector, and how we can ensure it can continue to meet our changing needs and get goods right up to the front door and factory gate in an efficient way, making the best possible use of the latest technologies to do so. In addition, as vehicle technology becomes more advanced, our wider infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. I am therefore pleased to see £400million planned public and private investment in a network of electric car charging points, and £100million towards supporting people to buy new cleaner cars. But we also need to prepare our roads for the arrival of driverless cars: working with Sir John Armitt and Bridget Rosewell, I look forward to launching our “Roads for the Future” competition in the New Year, to encourage the brightest and best in Britain to come forward with their ideas for developing a world-class roads network fit for the future.
Our recent report identified the need to tackle the three cs of congestion, capacity and carbon across our infrastructure network: today’s Budget already starts to take steps to address some of these, especially with the £1.7billion Transforming Cities fund to improve transport within cities. But as new directly-elected mayors and local leaders look to plan ahead, we need a long-term strategy to ensure we get maximum bang for our buck. That’s why we are developing the country’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, to consider how we meet the country’s infrastructure needs right up to 2050. And it’s why we stand ready to work with not just central government, but also local government as local leaders look to address the specific needs and wishes of their communities.