‘Infrastructure revolution’ must be underpinned by long-term action plan

Published: 4 Sep 2019

By: NIC

Portrait of Sir John Armitt

The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission today welcomed the Chancellor’s pitch for an ‘infrastructure revolution’ in his Spending Review – but warned the National Infrastructure Strategy must deliver a truly long-term plan for the UK’s infrastructure if this aspiration is to be met.

Sir John Armitt said the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment offers a clear path to help the UK up its infrastructure game, and he urged the Chancellor to fully implement its recommendations on new devolved powers and investment for urban transport, a low-carbon economy, full-fibre broadband to all homes by 2033, and greater resilience flood and drought resilience.

In his Spending Review, Chancellor Sajid Javid recognised effective infrastructure was essential to how the country functions and acknowledged previous under-investment had led to the UK falling behind its competitors, leading to significant challenges for commuters, businesses and households. The Chancellor confirmed a number of government commitments in line with recommendations in the National Infrastructure Assessment, including:

  • Deliver faster broadband connectivity and quicker mobile connections
  • Cleaner transport and more trains and buses to connect the cities of the North
  • An expansion of cleaner renewable energy

The Chancellor said the government would seek to kick start infrastructure investment and create the right conditions to give private investors the confidence to invest in major UK infrastructure projects; he also confirmed the government’s commitment to deliver Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Mr Javid acknowledged the government would continue to rely on the “expert advice” of the National Infrastructure Commission in its infrastructure planning.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said:

“The Chancellor is right to recognise the UK must up its game on infrastructure, but any revolutionary plans for digital connectivity, improvements to failing urban transport networks and expanding clean energy must be translated into effective actions.

“The Government must therefore ensure its forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy is truly long-term in outlook, backed by clear goals and stable and ambitious funding, and genuinely committed to a change in approach. Such a transformative shift is essential if our country is to thrive and cope with the challenges of a growing population and the impacts of climate change.”

“Fortunately the Chancellor has in our National Infrastructure Assessment a costed, strategic and deliverable blueprint for how that can be achieved. We hope he is true to his word and accepts our expert advice.”

The National Infrastructure Assessment, published in 2018, is the first of its kind in the UK. Its recommendations, fully costed within the fiscal remit provided by government of 1.2 per cent of investment in infrastructure each year up to 2050, included:

  • Extending access to full fibre broadband services across the country, with subsidised provision in rural and remote communities
  • 50 per cent of the UK’s electricity should come from renewable sources by 2030
  • Creating a truly national, visible charging network for electric vehicles
  • Devolved powers and £43billion funding between now and 2040 to city leaders to develop strategies for improving their local transport networks
  • A national resilience standard to protect communities against the risk of flooding, and halving the amount of water lost to leakages as part of steps to improve resilience against the risk of drought.

In May 2019, Sir John Armitt wrote to the Chancellor’s predecessor setting out the four tests which the Commission would use to determine the credibility of the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy. It must offer a long term perspective, looking beyond the immediate spending review period and up to 2050; clear goals and plans to achieve them; a firm funding commitment; and a genuine commitment to change.

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