First published by Infrastructure Intelligence, Lord Andrew Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and author of the foreword for Copper’s Attitudes to infrastructure report, writes that support for infrastructure investment is clear. So the question for us all is how we turn that theory into practice – and an answer is long overdue.

The public wants to see more investment in world class infrastructure – that’s the message of Copper Consultancy’s excellent ‘Attitudes to Infrastructure’ report, released earlier this month.

I know the industry wants to see greater investment in top quality projects.

Her Majesty’s Opposition certainly does – three years ago the Labour Party asked Sir John Armitt to draw up plans to revolutionise the way we introduce nationally significant development in this country.

And it is clear the Government does too – that’s why they took those plans forward and established the independent National Infrastructure Commission, which I chair.

So there we have it: a broad consensus.

The willing is there, so the question for us all is how we turn that theory into practice – and an answer is long overdue.

For too long British people have had to suffer from train delays and road chaos, electricity bills that are too high and affordable decent housing that is too scarce; all consequences of successive governments’ failure to plan long term on big infrastructure projects.

The UK’s infrastructure isn’t good enough, so it is high-time for a new approach.

For Britain to get on with the job of delivering high-quality infrastructure that benefits everyone, we need more than just a commitment to invest – we need strategic plans and the maximum possible consensus.

So the new, independent National Infrastructure Commission will transform the way we plan and deliver major infrastructure projects in this country, enabling the long-term decision making we need to unlock the jobs and growth of the future.

The NIC will collect the evidence, listen to the arguments, and think dispassionately and independently. We will report on what the UK needs, providing authoritative and impartial advice on the country’s priority requirements over the coming decades.

Of course, Ministers and Parliament must take the decisions, but the Commission will provide the evidence they need – and hold them to account if they duck or delay.

Major projects span governments and parliaments, so building consensus behind nationally will form a vital part of our work. Where it does not exist — as with runway capacity in the south-east — decisions have again and again been deferred, and are now decades overdue.

Without big improvements to its transport and energy systems, Britain will grind to a halt. So this is where the National Infrastructure Commission will begin, with reports on three of the most pressing issues ahead of the March Budget.

First, connectivity between the great cities of the north has been too poor for too long. It takes almost two hours to travel from York to Liverpool. You can get to London, twice as far away, just a fast. If the Northern Powerhouse is to become a reality, its connectivity must be improved. Now we need cost-effective plans to make sure that happens.

Next, London’s growing population – set to be 10 million by 2030 – means an additional five million journeys a day on our transport network in 15 years’ time. So the NIC will assess the need and options for future large scale investment in London, including looking at TfL’s proposals for Crossrail 2 and analyse the impact that transport investment can have on employment, housing and productivity.

Third: energy. The nature of our supply is changing – and without action the UK’s power sector faces a growing problem matching demand and supply. Our existing infrastructure, designed for a post-war world where homes and businesses were supplied almost exclusively from large fossil fuel generators, is coming to the end of its natural life. As we decarbonise our power supply we need to find new ways to manage the network in the most efficient way possible.The National Infrastructure Commission will consider how we make that happen.

Over the longer term the Commission will provide an assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs once a parliament, looking 30 years ahead and examining the evidence across the piece, from transport and energy, to broadband and flood defence.

That National Infrastructure Assessment will be at the heart of the way we reshape infrastructure planning and delivery in the UK. It will look across departments and across the country to create a genuinely strategic overview.

That insight will help provide industry and investors with the certainty and confidence they need to back major projects and share in their success. It will help ensure that Britain is best placed to compete in the future, and crucially, over the long term it will allow us to ensure that the people of this country are free to get on with their lives unencumbered by the chaos, costs and confusion that too often hold us back today.

We must never forget that infrastructure boils down to the stuff of everyday life – the school run, the heating bill, staying in touch with our friends and family. For families, businesses and the country little is more important. So we have to start getting it right.

To read Copper’s Attitudes to infrastructure report, please visit:   

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