The UK government must not “dither and delay” on key infrastructure decisions in the wake of Brexit and the election result, the chair of the National Infrastructure Commissions (NIC) has said.
The call comes as NIC, an independent advisory body to the government, releases a list of 12 infrastructure priorities, including Heathrow expansion, HS2 and new energy generating capacity, in order to underpin jobs and economic growth.
In a post election statement released today, NIC said decision making and delivery of infrastructure projects in the UK was “characterised by delay, backtracking and instability” and that this needed to change due to the “inevitable uncertainty for international investors during the Brexit negotiations”.
Lord Andrew Adonis, chair of NIC, said these priorities would be “an acid test of the government’s commitment to the ‘jobs first Brexit’”. “All of these have been agreed in principle, but require decisive action to get them moving in the new parliament. They ought to be at the top of ministers’ in-trays, and they ought not to linger there a day more than necessary,” he said.
Adonis singled out Heathrow expansion as symbolic of the UK’s underinvestment in infrastructure and stop-start decision making. “A third runway was agreed in principle 14 years ago but there has still not been a firm decision to proceed,” he said.
“There’s no point saying Britain is open to the world if you can’t get to and from the rest of the world because Heathrow is full.”
Also included in NIC’s list is Hinkley Point C, the first UK’s new nuclear power station in a generation that prime minister Theresa May green-lighted last September.
The long embattled project came under criticism again last week when a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), the parliamentary spending watchdog, described it as risky and expensive to consumers and said the strategic and economic benefits were uncertain.
The report said since the government published its initial strategic case in 2008, construction costs have increased while alternative low-carbon technologies have become less expensive.
NAO also said the government had failed to consider the cost to consumers past 2030, despite having agreed a pricing framework with contractor EDF up to 2050.
The NIC’s 12 infrastructure priorities:
• Heathrow’s third runway
• HS3, connecting Newcastle, Liverpool and Hull
• Crossrail 2, linking North East and South East London
• A new eastern crossing of the Thames to relieve the strain on the Dartford crossing
• A smart energy system
• Renewable energy
• Energy decarbonisation
• Hinkley Point C
• Broadband and mobile internet
• Next generation 5G mobile internet
• Water and flood defence infrastructure
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