Now is not the time to become complacent on infrastructure.
In the last Parliament, there was a lot of talk in relation to infrastructure in the 'next' Parliament, where:
- The strategic road network Road Investment Strategy would commence
- Local authorities would get greater certainty of their forward budget allocations for roads and local projects would commence
- High Speed 2 phase one would commence construction
- A decision on additional runway capacity following the Airports Commission recommendation would be made
- Construction on new nuclear projects would commence
- The Thames Tideway Tunnel project would commence construction
- The Northern Line extension would commence construction
- The Thameslink (2000) Programme would finally be complete and
- Crossrail will also be completed
Quite an impressive list, and one you probably wouldn’t believe if you listen to the narrative that says Britain can’t do infrastructure. We may finally be getting on top of some long standing infrastructure challenges, but it shouldn’t be seen as job done – we need to start planning ahead.
The last Parliament’s ‘next’ Parliament is now here, so what about this Parliament’s next – and the one after that?
We've said it before, infrastructure is crucial for the delivery of better-balanced growth of increased levels of investment, trade and productivity.
A quick glance at the list above shows how dangerously late we have left some of these major decisions and construction projects. EEF published our recommendation on how this could be avoided - making the case for a UK Infrastructure Authority to be set up and for a strategic assessment of infrastructure need to be completed.
Evolving the National Infrastructure Plan
For some time now EEF has been making the case that the National Infrastructure Plan needs to become more strategic. The last Government took some steps in that direction with each iteration of the Plan. The time has come to evolve once more.
Alongside the NIP, the Government (or Infrastructure UK) should construct and publish a look ahead across the next three Parliaments of the infrastructure challenges we will need to address across that period and the effect if we don't. This isn't about delivery, nor is it about publishing project solutions.
It would serve a key purpose, by providing:
- Confidence that the right challenges are being identified
- An opportunity to involve the wider public, starting debates on missing challenges and the trade off in doing nothing
- Start a public debate on potential solutions and minimise opposition to eventual project proposals
- Starting the political debate on solutions far earlier than at present, giving this more time to take place and a clearer mandate to be given by the public
This intangible value, would significantly help to streamline the infrastructure debate in the UK.
By the end of the next Parliament, if all goes to plan, we will be one year away from the completion of the first phase of HS2. What do we need to tackle in the Parliament after that?