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Government must become more accountable for its national infrastructure vision

The need for the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) to evolve into a robust and focused delivery plan is growing by the day.

Its arrival in 2010 was a victory in itself. It provided a much needed and welcome vision for UK infrastructure and a vehicle to compete in a modern world – creating jobs and growth and providing the stability for the UK to grow its engineering skills and capacity.

But if government is to retain confidence in the NIP and succeed in delivering the infrastructure the UK needs, the next version of the plan to be published with the Autumn Statement must facilitate faster, more effective delivery of work on the ground.

To help achieve this, it should clearly identify those projects which are of genuine strategic significance in delivering long term improvements to the UK’s economic performance and quality of life, and pave the way for their fast delivery.

It should also set out – for the delivery of each priority project – government’s role, an accountable minister or official and clear progress on delivery.

The current Top 40 project list – which actually contains over 500 individual projects due to the inclusion of programmes of work – is a step in the right direction, but it is too broad. We need a shorter, concise list of priorities which clearly align with the UK’s strategic goals.

Finally, we need swift passage of the Electricity Market Reform (EMR), currently before parliament.

The delivery of new electricity generation capacity is arguably the most important national strategic requirement covered by the NIP and the scale of investment required to meet this challenge is estimated at over £100bn.

The government has outlined a range of strategies designed to support investment across a variety of technologies, whilst the construction industry is gearing up to meet this demand. But government’s EMR package will be critical in underpinning this transition, providing investors with the confidence and certainty to invest in low carbon technologies. 

  • Nick Baveystock is director general of the ICE

Readers' comments (1)

  • The fact is that UK is going to run out of power .... especially when the wind drops on a cold winter's night with frost all about.

    The anti power station lobby - whether it be anti nuclear or anti fossil - has achieved this with very little effort ... whereas China and India are forging ahead.

    As I retire I despair of the UK's inability to make a decision to define a project and configure it to get best value for money, raise the finance, build and commission it.

    And Prince Charles just noticed that the Pensions Industry has a problem. I KNOW ... too many engineering companies have gone to the wall ...

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