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The UK’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment published

18 July 2018
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published its first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).
The UK’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment published
Within the constraints of a 1 – 1.2% fiscal envelope the report sets out what the NIC believes the UK needs, in terms of its economic infrastructure, for the next 10 to 30 years.

It also reflects on the need for new approaches to funding and financing to ensure sustained investment in the UK’s infrastructure networks.

ICE has welcomed the recommendations set out in the NIA and their close alignment with our own National Needs Assessment. With major demographic challenges on the horizon – including the growth and aging of the population, coupled with the need to adapt to a changing climate - it is essential that government takes a long-term approach to infrastructure planning.

There is also an onus on the built environment sector to ensure that it is in good shape to help deliver what is a very ambitious plan.

Investment for city region transport and shifting to electric vehicles

Included within the report recommendations is the call for investment of £43bn in transport for city regions and a  need to prepare for 100 per cent electric vehicle sales by 2030.

Empowering city regions to take charge of their own infrastructure networks is an integral part of ICE’s devolution agenda. The NIC’s recommendation for heavy investment in transport for city regions is therefore welcome.

Increased and well targeted investment in this area is necessary to improve connectivity and boost capacity. Better transport links enable economic growth through agglomeration and increased productivity. They also improve quality of life as journey’s become faster more frequent and reliable.

The recommendation to prepare for 100 per cent EV’s sales by 2030 is also welcome. The environmental benefits (in terms of reducing harmful carbon emissions) of increasing EV 's uptake are obvious.

Coupled with a shift towards developing connected and autonomous vehicles, this will mean that road transport of the future will not only be cleaner, but will offer the public  flexibility and choice that are simply not available today.

Recommendations in other key areas

The NIC’s report also makes other significant recommendations in the following areas:

• Nationwide full fibre broadband by 2033
• Half of the UK’s power provided by renewables by 2030
• Three quarters of plastic packaging recycled by 2030
• Ensuring resilience to extreme drought through additional supply and demand reduction
• A national standard of flood resilience for all communities by 2050

The necessity for action in each of these areas is clear and collectively they form a comprehensive blueprint for what UK infrastructure should look like well into the future. The logical next question is: how will all of this be paid for?

Funding and financing

The NIC is very clear that adjustments to the ways in which infrastructure is funded and financed will be necessary in delivering the recommendations that it has outlined.

This includes improving cost-benefit analysis in procurement and private financing, along with developing mechanisms that better leverage uplifts in land values for investment as a result of infrastructure development.

The establishment of a UK financial institution (preferably in the form of a UK investment bank) should the UK lose access to finance currently provided by the European Investment Bank is, rightly, put forward as a necessity.

The NIC is also bold in calling for a ‘grown- up’ consultation to be undertaken around road user charging. A business as usual approach in this area is not sustainable in the long term.

ICE’s State of the Nation report for 2018

Like the NIC, ICE recognises that fresh approaches to investment in infrastructure are required.

Our upcoming 2018 State of the Nation report is seeking to establish how the flow of funding and finance can be optimised to support the capital and revenue needs of the UK’s infrastructure networks.

It is expected that this work will help contribute to identifying how the recommendations set out in the NIA can be delivered. Evidence gathering is well underway and we expect to publish the final report in the Autumn.

If you are interested in contributing please email: [email protected].

  • Ben Goodwin, lead policy manager at ICE