Infrastructure Policy Watch: UK government reviews road and rail development policy

A review of the national networks National Policy Statement to make it net-zero compliant has been ordered by the UK transport secretary.

The UK government is reviewing its policy on road and rail development. Image credit: Shutterstock
The UK government is reviewing its policy on road and rail development. Image credit: Shutterstock
Chris Richards
In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

UK government announces review of road and rail National Policy Statement

The UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, has announced a full review of the National Policy Statement (NPS) for national networks covering major roads and rail.

NPSs outline the UK government’s strategic policy intent for infrastructure development and are used as part of the planning system to determine if a proposed project should be granted development consent. The review aims to bring the national networks NPS in line with commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

The secretary of state said: "The current National policy statement (NPS) on national networks, the government’s statement of strategic planning policy for major road and rail schemes, was written in 2014 – before the government’s legal commitment to net zero, the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the new sixth carbon budget and most directly the new, more ambitious policies outlined in the transport decarbonisation plan."

The review will start later this year and conclude in spring 2023. The existing NPS will continue to be used until then to approve projects from Highways England and Network Rail.

Additional reviews are also underway of the Energy National Policy Statements (which are 10 years old), alongside an operational review of the entire system of granting planning consent for major projects. Question marks also hang over the Airports National Policy Statement following a court challenge in 2020.

ICE’s view

National Policy Statements are an essential part of how strategic infrastructure decisions are made. Keeping them up-to-date as policy ambition changes is vital, so it is good to see the NPS for major road and rail schemes being updated. ICE’s recent policy position statement outlined how to evolve how strategic infrastructure projects secure planning approval.

Our policy position statement recommended that a National Infrastructure Strategy be published every five years either as or with a single National Policy Statement for infrastructure. This would ensure NPSs are kept up to date with the latest UK government positions. We also recommend that the current suite of NPSs are updated in light of NIS2020.


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