Unwrapping the importance of infrastructure for everyday life

Published: 18 Dec 2019

By: Sir John Armitt - Chairman

Portrait of Sir John Armitt

As we hurtle towards Christmas, infrastructure is perhaps not top of most people’s minds.

But without it, the holidays would be rather less enjoyable (raw turkey, anyone?) and those of us travelling wouldn’t be able to get to where we are supposed to be.

So this year, the National Infrastructure Commission is working with various companies and industry bodies to highlight some of the hidden heroes working across infrastructure on Christmas Day.

Every year, hundreds of people across energy, transport and water are on site during the time that most of us are usually off work.

Of course, they join an army of people in the health and social care sector, emergency services and many others which require staffing over Christmas. But traditionally, infrastructure workers have probably received less attention.

We wanted to draw together examples of people who will be helping ensure the rest of the country can celebrate and relax, by providing the vital services we all rely upon. The Commission hopes it will raise the profile of the various trades and professions that support the UK’s infrastructure – and encourage others to spare a thought for those heading out to work on 25 December.

There’s also a wider point. Recognising those who help keep the lights on, water flowing and transport moving underlines the importance of infrastructure to everyday life.

This includes a wide range of services that we typically only think about when they go wrong, or when natural events take them to breaking point.

We can take infrastructure for granted, but it is the backbone of Britain. Investing wisely in proper long term planning will support economic growth and boost quality of life for all regions of the UK.

The Commission exists to advise the government on precisely these matters, and as 2019 draws to a close, it’s worth reflecting that it’s been a year when the fragility of parts of our infrastructure have regularly hit the headlines – the damage to Toddbrook Reservoir; the Yorkshire floods; debates about future high speed rail provision.

None of these issues have easy answers, though in terms of strategic priorities, the Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment published last summer is the right place for the new government to start.

So when I’m asked about my Christmas wish list, I reply that a National Infrastructure Strategy early in 2020 would be greatly appreciated – not just by me, or indeed our sector, but by present and future citizens of the UK, for many years to come.

While our new government puts what I hope are the finishing touches to such a strategy, I wish you a very happy Christmas, and all the best for 2020.


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