Ministers must shift the infrastructure agenda from rhetoric into “delivery mode” if the government is to retain confidence in the effectiveness of the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) and succeed in delivering the infrastructure the UK needs, the ICE said last week.
In a paper submitted to Infrastructure UK, the Institution said the focus for the next NIP, due to be published with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, must be on creating a “robust and focused delivery plan”.
To help achieve this, it repeated its call for the government to replace its “top 40” priority projects list in the NIP with a shorter, concise list of priorities which align with the UK’s strategic goals.
The ICE also called for speedy introduction of the promised legislation which will end stop-start investment patterns in the UK’s roads, which have long hindered maintenance and asset management. And it urged the government to push ahead with electricity market reform, which it claimed is “arguably the most important national strategic requirement covered in the NIP.”
The concerns echo calls in a recent survey undertaken by employers body the CBI and management consultants KPMG. This concluded that the government should give businesses and potential investors in energy infrastructure more certainty about government energy policy.
ICE director general Nick Baveystock said that the NIP had to become more focused.
“The NIP has a critical role in enabling the UK to compete in a modern world, creating jobs and growth and providing the stability for the UK to grow its engineering skills and capacity,” he said.
“The first two editions set out a much needed and welcome vision for UK infrastructure, but the need for it to evolve into a robust and focused delivery plan isgrowing.
“The next version of the NIP 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 - the government’s role, an accountable minister or official and clear progress on delivery.
“The current Top 40 project list was a step in the right direction but is too broad and projects are not set against clear strategic goals that could be achieved through their delivery,” he said.
On the promised road sector reforms, Baveystock added: “The proposal to create an arm’s length Highways Agency with a multi-year funding settlement is welcome.
“The highways sector has suffered more than others from stop/start investment and capricious decision making and these steps therefore signal the government’s commitment to making decisions for the long term.
“Prompt introduction of the promised legislation to implement the proposals, is however critical.”