Govt slammed over ‘sluggish’ delivery of major infrastructure


Major infrastructure projects are moving too slowly to meet economic and green targets, a government agency has said.  

London Bridge.
by Rory ButlerMarch 27, 2023

The UK Government has come under fire from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) over its ‘stuttering progress’ on big schemes – including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – “just as the need for acceleration has heightened”. 

The agency said ministers must focus on ‘fewer, bigger and better’ targeted initiatives for long-term growth and a lower carbon economy, warning government is currently ‘off track in a range of areas’. 

In its annual Infrastructure Progress Review, the NIC criticised “negligible advances” in energy-efficient homes, low carbon heating solutions and a sustainable supply and demand of water projects.  

It questioned why just 55,000 heat pumps were fitted in 2021 under a target for at least 600,000 a year by 2028, meanwhile 1.5 million gas boilers were installed. 

And why just 37,000 public EV charge points are currently fitted under a target for 300,000 by 2030. 

The NIC also called for a “greater sense of certainty” around HS2 and NPR projects, after transport secretary Mark Harper recently revealed soaring inflation meant the Birmingham to Crewe stretch of HS2 will be delayed by two years.  

In its proposals for “getting back on track”, the Commission called for: 

  • Policy staying power to reduce uncertainty that adds costs, delays and deters investment. 
  • Fewer, bigger and better schemes, rather than “expending too much effort on many small-scale funding interventions and repeated consultations, trying to maintain optionality in all areas”. 
  • Greater devolution of funding and decision making: move away from competitive bidding processes; build on multi-year funding settlements for combined authorities; long term devolved budgets for all local transport authorities; and greater local revenue raising powers. 
  • Unblocking delivery barriers, specifically the planning system for NSIPs. 

It added: “Private sector investment is also critical for meeting the government’s long-term targets on infrastructure.  

“The UK must remain an internationally competitive place to invest, at a time when the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States and the REPowerEU plan and the Net-Zero Industry Act in the European Union make the investment environment more challenging.  

“Ambitious and stable policy from government, alongside effective regulation, is critical for providing the private sector with the certainty it needs to invest.” 

To read the NIC’s full recommendation, click here. 

If you enjoyed this article, we also recommend Results from Balfour’s Zero Carbon Site 

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