Budget infrastructure measures welcome – but new strategy will be the “real test”

Published: 1 Nov 2018

By: NIC

Close-up of Sterling notes

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission today welcomed Budget measures announced this week, aimed at improving key parts of the UK’s infrastructure – but warned that the “real test” will be the Government’s proposed National Infrastructure Strategy.

Sir John Armitt said the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment offers a clear path for meeting the country’s future needs, and urged the Chancellor to use his Spending Review and the planned new strategy to implement them.

Alongside his Budget statement, the Chancellor announced plans for a National Infrastructure Strategy in 2019, alongside infrastructure measures including:

  • £28.8billion towards improving the UK’s motorways and major local roads from 2020-2025
  • £420million towards tackling potholes next year
  • £200million towards pilot projects for extending access to full fibre broadband services to rural and remote communities;
  • A further £500million towards the Housing Infrastructure Fund – taking the total to £5.5billion – to help support the delivery of 650,000 homes;
  • An increase in the Transforming Cities Fund to £2.5billion; including £90million to support the trial of smart transport including on-demand buses;
  • £37million additional development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail; and
  • £20million development funding for the central section of East-West Rail

Sir John welcomed these, but highlighted the need for the National Infrastructure Strategy to set out an ambitious long-term and cross-sectoral agenda, addressing the UK’s needs in energy and water as well as transport and digital communications.

And while he welcomed the extra funding for the UK’s roads, he urged the Government to clarify how the new Lower Thames Crossing and improvements to the A303 will be paid for – including the opportunities for private financing, which would free up public funds for other schemes.

Looking ahead to the Spending Review and the National Infrastructure Strategy, Sir John highlighted measures he wanted to see implemented including:

  • Action to make the most of improvements in renewable energy technologies;
  • Funding and powers devolved to cities to improve local transport networks, including public transport;
  • Long-term funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail to link cities in the North of England, as well as Crossrail 2 in London; and
  • Measures to create a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles, to give drivers confidence to make the switch from petrol and diesel

Responding to the Budget statement, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said:

“Today’s Budget includes a number of welcome measures for infrastructure – but the real test will be next year’s Spending Review and, crucially, the National Infrastructure Strategy that the Chancellor has promised.

“This strategy should bring together the roads funding from this Budget with longer-term funding for cities and projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2.  And it should include access to full fibre broadband and greater use of renewable sources for our energy.

“These measures and more formed our National Infrastructure Assessment – the first of its kind in the UK.  Now that the Budget has been announced, I would urge Philip Hammond to use his Spending Review and the planned Strategy to implement our recommendations in full.”

Supporting the Growth Arc – and improving the resilience of UK infrastructure

In his Budget statement the Chancellor also announced the Government’s response to the National Infrastructure Commission’s report into the arc spanning Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford – an area known as the Growth Arc.

Philip Hammond confirmed that there would be a new ministerial champion for the area, and plans for a private sector chair to offer advice and secure support from the business community, as well as £20million additional development funding for the central section of the planned East-West Rail, among other measures.

Sir John said these were welcome, but that continued and concerted efforts were needed from both national and local leaders to deliver the transport links and new homes needed to make the most of the Growth Arc’s potential.

As well as announcing the Government’s response to a previous study, Philip Hammond also confirmed that the National Infrastructure Commission will be conducting a new study, to examine the future resilience of the UK’s infrastructure network.  The report will be published in Spring 2020.

Notes to Editors

The National Infrastructure Assessment is the first of its kind in the UK.  Its recommendations include:

  • Extending access to full fibre broadband services across the country, with Government funding to enable provision in rural and remote communities;
  • Aiming for 50 per cent of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, with the Government offering support for no more than one nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C between now and 2025;
  • Creating a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles through subsidies in areas where the private sector won’t deliver in the short term, and through councils allocating a portion of their parking spaces for future charging points;
  • Providing additional powers and £43billion funding between now and 2040 to city leaders to develop strategies for improving their local transport networks and delivering new job opportunities and homes; and
  • Delivering a national resilience standard to protect communities against the risk of flooding, and setting water companies a target to halve the amount of water lost to leakages to ensure supplies are resilient against an increased risk of drought

Further details can be found here

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