NIC tentative over Hammond’s budget and see 2019 strategy as “real test”

The National Infrastructure Commission has warned the government that the anticipated 2019 National Infrastructure Strategy – which responds to the body’s first of its kind infrastructure assessment – will be the acid test moving forward.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the NIC, has welcomed measures that were laid out in Monday’s (29 October) budget by the chancellor but has urged Philip Hammond to use his Spending Review and the planned new strategy next year to follow recommendations laid out by the commission.

The National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA) published in July looks at the UK’s future economic infrastructure needs up to 2050 and set out a range of infrastructure targets for the government to try and achieve.

These included aiming for 50% of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, creating a national, visible charging network for electric vehicles and providing additional powers and £43bn funding between now and 2040 to city leaders.

Measures set out this week saw £28.8billion being made available to improving the UK’s major roads, a further £500m towards the Housing Infrastructure Fund and an increase in the Transforming Cities Fund to £2.4bn.

Despite Armitt welcoming these, the chair 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.

He has also 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.

Commenting on the budget and expectations for next year, 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.”

It was also announced this week that the NIC will examine the resilience of the UK’s infrastructure in a new study announced by the chancellor. The study will consider what action government should take to ensure that infrastructure can cope with future changes, disruptions, shocks and accidents.

Measures the commission would like to see implemented in next year’s strategy:

  • 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
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