Political leaders and engineers have reacted to a report addressing the state of the UK’s infrastructure by saying the government must act on the recommendations.
The UK’s infrastructure is reaching capacity and existing assets cannot be stretched much further, a report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) warned.
The NIC launched the draft National Infrastructure Assessment at Birmingham City University on Friday which outlined the steps the UK needs to take to improve and future proof infrastructure by the year 2050, with a focus on “carbon, capacity, and connectivity”.
NIC chairman Lord Adonis, who retook the Labour Whip when Parliament opened in June, said the Heathrow airport expansion delays are “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all.”
Arcadis head of research Simon Rawlinson said the report addressed the “elephants in the room” and that “it is vital that government is listening and responding.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “Historically, the UK economy has suffered from short-term thinking that has delayed large projects and been costly for the taxpayer and UK plc.
“Now that an independent assessment of the UK’s infrastructure requirements has been put in place, the government must act on this ambitious vision and get spades in the ground.”
The NIC report says: “Urban transport is too often not joined up or integrated, and most cities have lacked the funding and powers to address this.
“London is an exception, benefitting from strong leadership, significant funding and a clear strategy, including bold policies such as the London congestion charge.
“The same is not true in most other cities. Transport investments are not always planned with housing opportunities or economic development in mind.
“Transport in and around cities is focused largely on personal cars. This is often inefficient and generates congestion, but city leaders have not had the powers or resources to address this.”
Five of the seven recently elected metro-mayors were at the launch to set out the infrastructure agenda for their regions and support a plan that “works for the whole country”.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the result of the European Union referendum highlighted the sentiment that “the systems of government [Westminster and Brussels] work better for some areas than they do for others”.
He said: “We face up now to the reality of Brexit, we need to help all of our regions put in place the infrastructure to build a strong and prosperous economy going forwards in the rest of this century and that I think is what we are all absolutely agreed about.
“This is the first time the country has come together and put forward a coherent plan for investment in all parts of the country so we can see balanced growth. It clearly makes sense to put this together as a plan for the country in the 21st century.”
He added that people in the North feel frustrated, and cited a statistic that said it takes longer to get from Manchester to Chester on the current rail timetable than it did in 1962.
Burnham said: “There is a real frustration about the slow pace of change, particularly on rail and transport investment. Getting across the country is such a challenge and that’s why for us Crossrail for the north is so important.”