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Armitt urges ministers to show greater ambition on enacting NIC proposals

Responding to actions taken by the government to implement National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recommendations, Sir John Armitt has warned ministers to "not take their eye off the ball" when it comes to improving UK infrastructure.

The chairman of the NIC has been speaking ahead of the Annual Monitoring Report published today, which offers an assessment of the government’s actions to act upon proposals put forward by the commission.

Armitt says those in responsible for delivering change have a “real and exciting chance” to ensure the UK benefits from world-class infrastructure but believes ministers to date, are favouring to enact the quickest-to-implement recommendations. He now wants to see progress on the more challenging targets. 

The annual update makes particular reference to poor progress made towards improving mobile connections on the UK’s road and rail network - leaving passengers without the signal they should expect during their journeys.

Armitt says that greater ambition and better coordination between departments could deliver much-needed service improvements for passengers in these areas especially.

On the issue of connectivity, the Annual Monitoring Report published today has recommendations for action over the next year, including:

  • Setting out next steps on mobile connectivity for rail in 2019 – essential to offer clarity for suppliers, and for ensuring the necessary trackside infrastructure is in place by 2025, to keep in step with deployment of new 5G networks; and
  • Developing a plan for scaling motorway mobile connectivity beyond existing trials by the end of 2019 – this would enable delivery of these new connections by 2025 at the latest, and meet the needs of driverless cars using the UK’s roads in future.

Last summer the NIC published the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment which attempted to provide a blueprint for infrastructure investment going forward. It marked the culmination of three years work and will be a process that is repeated every five years.

The NIC chair wants government to once again take note of the fully-costed and ambitious recommendations in the landmark report and has reiterated the need to adopt them in the Industrial Strategy.

Commenting on the report, Armitt said: “There is a real and exciting chance available to ensure the UK benefits from world-class infrastructure, particularly through the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy – a first for this country.  We cannot afford for ministers to take their eye off the ball. With this issue at the heart of the Industrial Strategy, I would urge the government to adopt the recommendations from our National Infrastructure Assessment, and use this to offer industry the long-term, fully-costed infrastructure plan they need.”

Government progress to date:

  • Today’s Annual Monitoring Report looks across the six sector-specific reports that the commission has published since 2015, covering 45 recommendations to government – 42 of which have been accepted.
  • Of those 42 recommendations, 10 are now considered to have been fully met – including the introduction of better measuring of mobile connectivity, moves towards improving rail connections between Leeds and Manchester and efforts to deliver a smart and flexible energy system.
  • However, progress against the remaining 32 recommendations accepted by government has been varied. There are many areas where significantly increased momentum is required to meet the commission’s recommendations.