The party that wins the coming General Election will have to maintain investment in the infrastructure projects that will deliver long-term social, economic and environmental benefits, says the ICE in its Manifesto for UK Infrastructure.
There is general agreement across the political spectrum that infrastructure investment must be maintained. But there is debate about how the necessary capital can be raised due to the current economic difficulties − and which infrastructure projects are priorities at a time of scarce resources and growing demand.
The ICE believes it is vital that projects which will underpin economic recovery and drive a low carbon agenda − such as Crossrail, London Tideway Tunnels and the new nuclear energy programme − still go ahead despite the strain on the public purse.
Feasibility studies for proposals such as the Severn tidal project and a high speed rail link from London to Scotland must also be driven forward.
The newly formed Infrastructure UK can provide a focal point for planning and prioritising investment for UK infrastructure projects in the coming years.
However, the ICE has raised concerns that projects cannot be planned and prioritised until long-term funding sources have been identified and secured.
“There is a clear case for continued investment despite the restrictions the current financial situation.”
Tom Foulkes, ICE
ICE director general Tom Foulkes said: “There is a clear case for continued investment in our transport, energy, waste, flooding and water infrastructure, despite the restrictions the current financial situation places on government spending.
“This is not just for the benefit of industry and the economy, but for the benefit of society as a whole − our quality of life depends on infrastructure.
“The newly formed Infrastructure UK has a remit to assess the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs and facilitate their delivery.This provides a great opportunity to create a framework which successive governments can adopt and develop, thereby creating a virtuous circle.
“But the effectiveness of initiatives such as Infrastructure UK, the National Policy Statements and the chief construction adviser will depend on the generation of new and innovative ways to fund much-needed infrastructure − ongoing barriers to private investment must be addressed.
“We will continue to work with politicians, industry and economic experts, to develop the idea of a UK national infrastructure investment bank, which could help increase the availability of funding and reduce its costs.”
MANIFESTO FOR UK INFRASTRUCTURE
The ICE’s recommendations are aimed at addressing the main issues facing the UK in terms of investing, building and maintaining UK infrastructure:
A national infrastructure investment bank (NIIB)
- To help attract large volumes of private capital which will be needed to fund essential infrastructure investment. The concept of an NIIB has already gained support from a range of political figures.
An efficient planning system
- Preserve National Policy Statements (NPSs) and special consent regime for strategically important infrastructure projects created by the Planning Act 2008, to ensure infrastructure projects proceed without undue delay.
- Parliament to approve the NPSs to secure their legitimacy through cross party support.
- NPSs to be linked to the Comprehensive Spending Reviews and existing strategic investment plans.
Urgent action on energy
- Reduce overall energy generation requirements through investment in domestic insulation and the expansion of combined heat and power schemes.
- Substantially increase gas storage capacity to ensure reserves.
- Boost generation capability through the development and application of carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Capacity and skills
- End the stop/start investment in capital programmes that could damage efforts to boost skills growth in the industry.
- Adopt the policy promoted by Construction Skills, whereby one apprentice is taken on for every £1M of public money invested.
- Reverse the reduction in the number of university places on offer to bring a steady supply of science, technology, engineering and mathematics students that will be needed to fill the expected gap in engineering and manufacturing workers in the period 2007-2017.
Low carbon economy
- Harness the academic/skills base and exploit the UK’s competitive advantages relating to offshore wind and coastal/estuarial power.
- Commit to a guaranteed floor on carbon price and the development of standards for measuring and counting carbon in the planning, procurement and operational phases of projects.
- Increase rail capacity to encourage the shift from road to rail required if congestion on roads is not to be replaced by congestion on rail, and to meet carbon reduction targets.
- Develop an integrated transport system across the national network − across all modes − to reduce congestion and emissions.
- Establish a consensus on longterm transport investment priorities to provide certainty, confidence and accelerated decision making.
Defending critical infrastructure
- Establish a single point of authority for strategic level defence of critical infrastructure which would coordinate Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, the Natural Hazards Team and the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, plus the sector based regulators. Taking a holistic view, it would address the areas of infrastructure defence currently being overlooked, work to achieve resilience across networks recognising interdependence of our infrastructure assets, increase reserve capacity and share information.
- The ICE estimates that to hit EU Landfill Directive obligations in 2010, 2013 and 2020, the UK will need over 250 new facilities for composting, recycling and recovering energy from waste. This necessary investment should be taken advantage of to deliver a fundamental shift in attitude from waste to resource management. This would in turn create new jobs, deliver reductions in CO2 emissions and unlock new sources of energy
- A study on waste on the scale of the Eddington Review of the transport sector would help shift policy from its current path and make clear the links between waste, resource use, economic growth, energy security and climate change mitigation.
Water and wastewater
- Invest in new infrastructure to solve water infrastructure problems, rather than short-term fixes that cannot be relied upon and only alleviate the issue.
- Legislation is needed to allow mandatory metering to reduce water wastage − even in areas not experiencing an immediate shortage. This should where possible be combined with variable charging.
Read the manifesto in full