After a period of immense difficulty for the industry caused by the financial crash of 2008, there are now positive signs across the board that we are moving into growth.
Whether growth is sustainable or not will in large part depend on how the infrastructure sector and government work together. This is vital if we are to remain on the road to growth and the infrastructure the UK needs is to be delivered.
This year will see the all the main infrastructure sectors continue to play a key role in driving the UK economy to growth and long term health. Utilities will see further focus on energy.
The government’s positive moves on Hinkley Point C and Wylfa have given confidence on progression with nuclear power. However, uncertainty remains on renewables, both in terms of prices and wider coalition government support, especially around wind.
The start of the investment phase of the AMP6 cycle will see work in the water sector ramp up. Smoothing out the process to avoid frontloading will be important to get most from the investment here. Government support around the progression and delivery of Thames Tunnels will help to ensure this important project adds to industry’s pipeline, as well as the wider grid.
On transport, the High Speed 2 bill will continue through parliament. Cross-party support here will remain critical if the HS2 bill, and the landmark project that it will deliver, are to move forward. Work remains here to garner full public support, but the importance of this project to our industry and the wider UK economy means that the case must continue to be consistently made.
Aviation will also move back on to the agenda following the interim report of the Davies Commission. If we are to deliver the aviation capacity that the UK needs, government must accept the recommendations of the report so we can move forward.
Finally, housing will also play an important role for the UK in 2014. Cross-party focus on housing is welcome given the massive shortfall in this area. The Help to Buy scheme to aid people access the mortgage market is welcome. The concerns, however, raised by those including the governor of the Bank of England about the capacity to overheat the market and cause a bubble that could undermine growth, shows the importance of supply here.
The government’s extra £1bn to unblock existing large housing schemes is a good start here. More, however, will be needed if we are to deliver all the housing that the UK needs, with the outlined 250,000 extra homes over six years falling short of the over 880,000 extra needed by 2021, as outlined in the Association for Consultancy & Engineering’s recent housing research papers.
What links the successful delivery of all these infrastructure areas is the continued need for government and industry to work together. Through conduits such as the National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum NIPSEF that I co-chair with chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander industry stands ready to help government deliver all the key infrastructure the UK needs.
Nelson Ogunshakin is National Infrastructure Plan Strategic Engagement Forum industry chair and Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive