“Window closing on infrastructure catch up”, warn government advisers

Failure to go further, faster over the next five years on plans for infrastructure delivery could constrain economic growth and threaten climate targets, according to the government’s official infrastructure advisers.

Noting the UK has faced several years of disruption from Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, the National Infrastructure Commission’s annual review charts a mixed picture of progress towards key infrastructure goals:

  • Five-year funding settlements for local transport have been devolved to more city regions
  • Funding diverted from the cancelled northern leg of HS2 has been earmarked for local transport budgets, but without a detailed replacement plan for improving train services in the North and Midlands the decision risks future capacity challenges
  • The share of electricity generated from renewable sources has grown to a record 47 per cent in 2023 and there have been welcome moves to accelerate the rollout of transmission infrastructure to get electricity where it is needed, but changes to the planning system for onshore wind developments are not sufficient for this source to meet its potential
  • Last minute changes to policy have created uncertainty and reduced the incentives to install a heat pump, which risks slowing the transition from fossil fuel heating. Government is currently off track to meet its target of 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028
  • Demand for water has plateaued rather than fallen, compounding risks to future supply, while network leaks are not being fixed at the rates required to meet the industry’s own targets, with weather conditions leading to a rise in leakage levels for most companies during 2022/23
  • Updated National Policy Statements for energy, national networks and water resources should ensure faster decision making on major projects, but opportunities remain to go further by expanding community benefits for hosting infrastructure and reducing duplicative environmental assessments. 

The Commission’s Infrastructure Progress Review 2024 calls for a concerted catch up programme accelerating policy implementation and delivery to ensure the country’s infrastructure is fit for the future.

In its recent National Infrastructure Assessment, the Commission calculated that public investment in infrastructure will need to reach around £30bn a year over the coming decades (from around £20bn a year in the past decade), alongside an uplift in private investment to around £50bn a year.

Click HERE to read the full report.


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