The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a list of 12 key projects that it says the government needs to take urgent action on. These include new electricity generating capacity, Crossrail 2, HS3 or Crossrail for the North and eastern crossings over the River Thames.
The call came from chairman Lord Andrew Adonis and three business organisations: Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
Lord Adonis said that the hung parliament and Brexit must not delay the infrastructure projects that are crucial for the economy. The call comes as the Conservative party reaches an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, where the DUP will support the Tories in key House of Commons votes. The deal involves £400M of infrastructure investment in Northern Ireland.
“Britain’s historic weakness has been to underinvest in infrastructure, and to adopt a stop:go approach even where decisions are taken in principle. Nothing symbolises this more than the long-running saga of Heathrow airport. A third runway was agreed in principle 14 years ago but there has still not been a firm decision to proceed,” said Lord Adonis.
“There’s no point saying Britain is open to the world if you can’t get to and from the rest of the world because Heathrow is full.”
He added: “Brexit and the hung parliament must not lead to dither and delay on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country. We need to press on with decisions on Heathrow, HS2 to the North of England, new electricity generating capacity, and radical improvements to digital communications, to underpin jobs and economic growth.
“Rapid progress in the next year on these top 12 major projects and priorities is an acid test of the Government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’ which the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, argued for last week.
“All of these have been agreed in principle, but require decisive action to get them moving in the new Parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in-trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary.”
The NIC says the top 12 infrastructure priorities should be:
1. Heathrow third runway
NIC says there should be a House of Commons vote on any finalised National Policy Statement on airports capacity in the south-east of England no later than May 2018 and a government response to the consultation on UK airspace published no later than October 2017.
2. High Speed 2
The NIC says the government should introduce the hybrid Bill for phase 2a (Birmingham to Crewe) of High Speed 2 and publish the finalised route for Phase 2b (Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds), including connections with High Speed 3, and let the major work contracts for the project, by the end of July 2017.
3. High Speed 3 (linking the major northern cities from Liverpool to Newcastle and Hull)
A plan for HS3 should be published by the end of the year, according to the NIC, including plans for the trans-Pennine rail electrification, plans for the northern sections of HS2, and plans for the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly station, as set out in the NIC’s High Speed North report.
4. Crossrail 2 (linking north-east, central and south-west London)
A plan for this, which has been agreed with the Mayor of London, should be published by the end of the year.
5. Eastern crossings of the River Thames
These include a decision on planning permission for the Silvertown Tunnel by the end of October 2017 and a finance strategy for the new Lower Thames Crossing, as well as beginning environmental impact work by September and consulting on the route next year.
The others are:
6. Flexible power systems
7. Renewable energy
8. Decarbonisation of energy
9. Hinkley Point C, including replacing Euratom support
10. Broadband and mobile
11. 5G mobile
12. Water and flood defence infrastructure