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Report: Government is too slow in making infrastructure decisions

Words: Laura Edgar
Rail infrastructure / Shutterstock_58222861

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has said the government is 'slow in taking decisive action' to address the UK’s infrastructure needs, as it calls for a parliamentary vote on a third Heathrow runway ‘no later than this summer’.

The commission’s first Annual Monitoring Report notes its concerns about the government’s failure to establish a firm timetable or funding plan for both Crossrail 2 and the Northern Powerhouse Programme.

The NIC is also perturbed about mobile phone coverage and digital connectivity on the UK’s roads and railways, saying urgent action is required to address this.

After the 2017 election, the NIC set out 12 infrastructure priorities on which it thought urgent government action was required, including a third runway for Heathrow, HS2 and HS3, and plans for renewable energy. The Annual Monitoring Report measures the government’s progress against the priorities.

Sir John Armitt, chair of the NIC, said: “Alongside progress, there is a disappointing lack of pace in several areas. Much greater urgency is needed in tackling the poor quality of mobile phone signal coverage on the UK’s major roads and railways lines.

He said it is “hugely disappointing” that nearly two years on from the publication of the commission’s report on Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, the government still has not firmly committed to a timetable for funding or got a clear plan for delivering either of these nationally significant projects.

“It is vital that decisions on both schemes are made this year and that the government commits to the long-term vision that supports the recommendations we made.”

Armitt said it is also important that the government makes decisions on immediate priorities.

“‎It is imperative that a parliamentary vote on the expansion of Heathrow takes place no later than this summer. Any further delay would be irreconcilable with the government’s commitment to deliver the infrastructure the country needs.”

However, he observed the progress made on transforming the UK’s energy networks, digital connectivity and regional planning. He said there had been moves to implement NIC recommendations set out in its Connected Future report, with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport  “significantly” increasing its digital capability. The 2017 Autumn Budget also allocated money for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor.

The commission warns that the UK’s “historic weakness” in strategic infrastructure planning could have damaging consequences for economic growth and international competitiveness if left unaddressed. Therefore, it has called for a ‘marked improvement’ to the UK’s transport and energy systems, digital capabilities and mobile coverage; “all of which are imperative for economic success and for our quality of life”.

Read more:

Government urged to press ahead with infrastructure plans

UK faces infrastructure gridlock, warns Adonis

Autumn Budget 2017: Devolution deal for North of Tyne; local growth; electric vehicle infrastructure

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