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Message from the editor | Issue 14 | Oct 15

Antony Oliver, Editor, Infrastructure Intelligence

As Sir John Armitt explains in this month’s Infrastructure Intelligence, for once the two main political parties agree that an independent long term assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs is worth having.

Regardless of who spawned the idea of a National Infrastructure Commission the reality is that few in the infrastructure sector disagree - have ever disagreed – that it is a great idea.

Of course, the critical question is how Lord Adonis will run his Commission, and more importantly who he will choose to assist him. Where will he find his “independent body of people, able to make intelligent assessment but not be conflicted or disappear into the weeds.”

"The task is less about delivery, more about the analysis of need and making the case for infrastructure investment. It is about removing the political “see-saw” inherent in past pet-project-decision-making and getting to the nub of what will really drive our nation’s economy."

There can be no doubting the scale of his challenge when attempting to assess the nation’s infrastructure needs and place them into a logical hierarchy amid increasing clamour for attention. And with the Chancellor keen to get a pre-Budget steer on spending priorities for critical schemes such as HS3 and the Northern Powerhouse, Crossrail 2 and London’s transport needs plus the tricky issues surrounding energy supplies and the grid, Adonis has little time to hang around.

The task is less about delivery, more about the analysis of need and making the case for infrastructure investment. It is about removing the political “see-saw” inherent in past pet-project-decision-making and getting to the nub of what will really drive our nation’s economy and boost the standard of lives across the UK. And that is hard stuff.

But it is a great aspiration and very similar in ambition to that of the Davies Aviation Commission set up in 2012 by the Coalition government to cut through the endless indecision over airport expansion. Yet as we also read this month, a recommendation doesn’t necessarily guarantee a simple decision. The debate is set to continue for some time yet.

So without question all infrastructure eyes will be on the government as it prepares to make its promised post Davies recommendation decision. Not least as getting this decision right could well set the tone for the way future Adonis Commission independent recommendations are received down the line.