Reflecting on two years of the National Infrastructure Commission

Published: 13 Oct 2017

By: Phil Graham

Phil Graham

Two years ago today the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission was announced. As we prepare for the launch of our interim National Infrastructure Assessment – the country’s first – it’s important to remember how much we’ve achieved in just two years. 

Our first report on Smart Power focused on the potential of more flexible electricity generation and transmission through using new storage and generating technologies and creating the regulations and market strategies necessary to embed them. The prize, if we get it right, is significant: a potential £8bn a year savings by 2030. I’m therefore pleased the Government’s plans to upgrade our electricity network included many of the specific changes we recommended.

Our Transport for a World City report from March 2016 made clear the pressing need for a Crossrail 2 line linking the north and south of the capital – as long as strict conditions on costs, funding and housing delivery were met. This line would relieve some of London’s most congested stations, significantly increase capacity through the city centre and unlock up to 200,000 homes.

In that same month we set out a vision for transforming rail transport in the North of England through kick-starting HS3, integrating it with HS2 and revitalising the region’s gateway stations. While this week’s announcement of a further £300million investment in rail across the North of England to make the most of HS2 is welcome, this additional connectivity will still be needed if we’re to make the most of the region’s economic potential. 

I’m also proud of our work advising the Government on the best ways to make the most of the so-called Growth Corridor between Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford. Our report made clear the need for better connectivity by road and rail across the area, integrated with ambitious plans for housing growth. The Government subsequently indicated its support for this approach with a £27m development grant for a fast road link between Oxford and Cambridge and £100m to accelerate the East-West rail connection in last November’s Autumn Statement. A second phase of this study is due to be published shortly. 

But the Commission also wants to ensure that data is seen as important as pipes, rail and concrete in planning our future infrastructure. Connected Future clearly showed that, setting out the challenge in ensuring the UK leads the world in 5G connections. We plan to go further with our current New Technologies work and advise on how emerging innovations like artificial intelligence and predictive maintenance could help us effectively plan for future infrastructure while better maintaining our existing assets. 

Even after a constructive first two years, we cannot be complacent. Things change. For example, Brexit wasn’t on the horizon when we started. It is now. It’s essential that this and a hung Parliament don’t derail policymakers from making decisions that encourage investment in future proofing our road, rail, digital, water and energy systems.

There’s much to do, as Lord Adonis made crystal clear in his post-election statement. In that, he listed the 12 infrastructure decisions sat in Minister’s in-trays that need urgent attention. It was a key part of our wider role, to scrutinize and report on the progress Government makes on these and other key infrastructure issues – and we’re prepared to be vocal where delays arise.

But all of this is on top of our main duty – delivering a National Infrastructure Assessment once a Parliament. Today we’ve published an interim report for consultation and we want to hear views from organisations and individuals from across the infrastructure sector and from outside it.  

I’m confident that the approach we’ve taken – listening to a wide range of viewpoints, building our evidence base, focusing on deliverable solutions – means our first National Infrastructure Assessment will make the strongest possible case for how transforming our infrastructure will improve our competitiveness and raise everyone’s quality of life.

These are, after all, a key part of our core purpose – and one we intend to continue as we start our third year of operation.


Share this article


Recent Articles

Coming up in 2024
Thumbtack pins in calendar concept for busy, appointment and meeting reminder

Coming up in 2024

This page shows a calendar reflecting the latest expected dates for Commission reports, publications and events. You can also sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter by entering your email address in the box at the foot of each website page.

1 Feb 2024 By
Principles before particulars secures project success, say NIC design experts

Principles before particulars secures project success, say NIC design experts

The National Infrastructure Commission’s Design Group has published guidance on developing and implementing design principles for major infrastructure projects. Building on the Group’s high level design principles – climate, people, places and value – the new guidance sets out a structured process for applying tailored principles at every stage of a project life cycle. The...

21 May 2024 By
Window closing on infrastructure catch up, warn government advisers
Cover graphic for IPR24

Window closing on infrastructure catch up, warn government advisers

Failure to go further, faster over the next five years on plans for infrastructure delivery could constrain economic growth and threaten climate targets, according to the government’s official infrastructure advisers. Noting the UK has faced several years of disruption from Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, the National Infrastructure Commission’s annual review charts a mixed picture...

16 May 2024 By
We’re recruiting: Senior events and engagement officer
Leeds City Centre

We’re recruiting: Senior events and engagement officer

Can you help planning and delivering a varied and engaging programme of Commission events, visits and meetings that help influence policy change? Do you have a demonstrate ability to think strategically, and also roll your sleeves up, to deliver high quality results? If so, then you could be the right fit for the senior engagement...

13 May 2024 By

Evidence_Icon_Turquoise Created with Sketch.

Explore data used in the Commission's research, and gain insights from across UK infrastructure

Join our team of professionals supporting the Commission to provide evidence based and forward thinking advice on infrastructure strategy.