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Major transport system changes must consider net-zero and levelling-up, ICE Fellow tells MPs 

17 March 2021

ICE Fellow Jonathan Spruce gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee and highlighted the biggest challenges facing infrastructure.

Major transport system changes must consider net-zero and levelling-up, ICE Fellow tells MPs 

Any major transport system interventions need to be driven by population growth, net-zero and levelling-up, ICE Fellow Jonathan Spruce told members of the House of Commons Transport Committee today.

After submitting written evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry into Major transport infrastructure projects: appraisal and delivery, ICE was invited to give oral evidence. Appearing alongside Spruce was another ICE Fellow, commissioner at the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) Bridget Rosewell, and James Heath, its chief executive.

While Covid-19 has changed demand in the short-term, “net-zero and regional inequalities are still the biggest challenges to infrastructure – and we need to define their outcomes,” Spruce told the committee.

ICE, along with the NIC, was welcomed by the committee chairman Huw Merriman MP as a ‘strategic infrastructure group’ which could offer insight at the first oral evidence session of the inquiry. Merriman spoke at an ICE Presidential Breakfast last year, where he outlined the committee’s priorities for transport in light of the pandemic.

Success stories

ICE was asked to help set the scene and outline some the broad strategic challenges around the appraisal and delivery of major transport projects.

Within this context, Spruce gave ICE’s view on whole-life costs and benefits, and what we can learn from successful infrastructure projects that have been delivered either on or ahead of time and on budget - such as the A14 in Cambridgeshire.

He discussed the enterprise model set out in Project 13 and a systems approach, which will also help improve how transport infrastructure projects are delivered in future, and the importance of having principles embedded right from the start, as set out in the Construction Playbook.

Spruce also commented that “ICE has identified that 74% of the British public would rather hear about the benefits of infrastructure from politicians”, rather than the costs.

Importance of collaboration

Spruce said that when it comes to delivering infrastructure, “collaboration is the key here – we deliver infrastructure in siloes, and this leads to inefficiencies.”

In addition, Spruce explained that “the new greener Green Book needs to be backed up with greater devolution of decision-making – the 5 Case Model is welcome, but it’s now about how we apply it in practice.”

He welcomed the vision of the National Infrastructure Strategy, but reiterated the need for adaptability and flexibility as priorities shift post-pandemic, while being mindful of achieving the UK’s net-zero ambitions and the need for a Net-Zero Infrastructure Plan.

“We’ve got the long-term commitment, all wrapped up in that net-zero challenge,” Spruce said.

Commenting on the session afterwards, Spruce said: “An affordable, reliable and cohesive transport network is a key enabler of the UK’s economic and social development. Ensuring it is fit-for-purpose is essential and offers value to the public requires ongoing efforts.

“If the UK is to reach the 2050 net zero target, decarbonising our transport system - currently the largest carbon emissions source - is critical.

“This inquiry into major transport infrastructure projects is an important step and ICE will continue to work with government to help inform policy decisions that create the best value outcomes for society.”

This was the third time that ICE has been asked to give evidence to one of the House of Commons Select Committees in the last six months. It follows former ICE President Paul Sheffield’s appearance before the Treasury Select Committee in September last year, and ICE Trustee Jim Hall’s in front of the Environmental Audit Committee before Christmas.

You can watch the session in full and read ICE’s submission here.

  • Joanna Gonet, lead public affairs manager at ICE