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Lord Adonis warns of UK infrastructure gridlock

Words: Laura Edgar
Congestion / iStock-611632170

The chair of the National Infrastructure Commission has warned that the government must tackle congestion, capacity and carbon to prevent the UK’s roads, railways and skies from becoming gridlocked.

Speaking in Birmingham alongside five of seven metro mayors, Adonis also cautioned that the UK faces slower mobile connections and “ever-worsening” air quality.

He was launching the commission’s interim National Infrastructure Assessment, Congestion, Capacity, Carbon: Priorities for National Infrastructure.

A long-term plan is needed to ensure that it is fit for the future, and that must include a decision on “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all” – expanding Heathrow.

The UK is at risk of falling behind other countries in its next-generation mobile and broadband connections and urgent action must be taken to avoid this.

For Adonis, the government must tackle the “three Cs”:

  • Congestion: Invest in projects, including HS3 and Crossrail 2, as well as new and improved public transport and cycling facilities in cities.
  • Capacity: Ensure that everyone has access to the latest digital communications technology and build new infrastructure to support new homes, and have sufficient water supply and flood protection to manage weather extremes.
  • Carbon: Get ready for electric vehicles, face up to the challenge of removing carbon emissions from heating and waste, and take advantage of the falling costs of renewables in electricity generation.

Adonis said: “We have a proud history in this country of delivering world-class infrastructure – but for years funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain.

“The endless delay to a parliamentary decision on Heathrow is a case in point – and perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all. If we are to make the most of our economic potential and compete globally, we need the ‘Heathrow is full’ sign to come down.”

Making infrastructure fit for the future is not just a job for Whitehall, said Adonis. He urged local leaders, including the mayors, to develop their own infrastructure plans.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, all attended the launch in Birmingham.

Palmer said: “There is a clear need for us rethink the way we go about delivering transport infrastructure in this country. The timescales involved are too long and the processes too cumbersome. Brexit magnifies the importance of us stepping up to the challenge.

“I hope that the new National Infrastructure Assessment can play a significant role in challenging conventional thinking and comes up with bold solutions for tackling the infrastructure challenge across the country.

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is one of the most economically dynamic regions in the country. However, it will only achieve its true economic potential if we are prepared to take bold decisions and overhaul our transport infrastructure.”

Burnham added: “The assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission underlines the clear need to invest in our cities – only by investing in our transport and other infrastructure will the great cities of the North be able to realise their full economic potential.”

A consultation on Congestion, Capacity, Carbon: Priorities for National Infrastructure closes on 12 January, 2018. It can be found here on the National Infrastructure Commission website.

Images | iStock