‘Dispassionate analysis’ of UK infrastructure needs?
In 2013, chancellor George Osborne told the BBC that he was ‘passionate‘ about the HS2 rail project. But should national and regional infrastructure planning be determined by the ‘passion’ and whim of politicians like Andrew Adonis and George Osborne?
Senior vice president of the Institution of Civil Engineers (and former Network Rail chief) Sir John Armitt believes that a National Infrastructure Commission headed by Lord Adonis “can provide unbiased analysis on the UK’s infrastructure needs for the coming decades and act as a catalyst for reaching consensus”.
[Consensus can power infrastructure revolution, ICE, 7 Oct 2015]
In the UK we have a rich engineering heritage stretching back to the industrial revolution, and proven ability in delivering major projects. Nonetheless we encounter some difficulties when it comes to understanding why we must invest, what we need to build and having confidence in our decisions.
In 2012 I was asked to develop a way forward – with cross-party support for evidence-based decision making at its heart. My colleagues and I – including Lord Adonis – consulted widely and proposed the creation of a National Infrastructure Commission to provide dispassionate analysis of the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs.
Three years later, I am thrilled to finally see cross-party support for the concept. During this year’s Budget, the Chancellor said government needed to be bold when it comes to infrastructure, and this is indeed a bold and positive step.
Lord Adonis is the right person to take the helm. He has long championed infrastructure and brings vast experience in transport and housing. He is known and respected across political boundaries for his drive, intelligence and ideas. He has all the credentials.
And he is keen to get started. While the commission is being put into statute, Andrew will work on an interim basis – providing continuity to industry and certainty to the investment community.
[…] Let’s be clear – a commission cannot remove politics from decisions on infrastructure and nor should it; politicians and the public will always have differing views on how to achieve something. However, the commission can provide unbiased analysis on the UK’s infrastructure needs for the coming decades and act as a catalyst for reaching consensus.
For me, the success of the commission will be truly underpinned by the independent evidence on which its analysis is based. This essentially opens up the debate; drawing from a wide pool of experts, data, analysis and consultations, and taking into consideration key factors such as climate change, population growth and affordability for the taxpayer. It will provide a basis for the strategic thinking that has been largely absent in the UK over the last few decades.