Adonis calls for government to accelerate work on major infrastructure projects

Out-Law News | 26 Jun 2017 | 5:05 pm | 2 min. read

National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair Lord Andrew Adonis has pressed the UK government to make progress on 12 infrastructure projects including the expansion of Heathrow Airport and the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway.

Adonis said Brexit and the hung parliament should not delay the implementation of infrastructure projects which were critical to the UK's competiveness and productivity.

He identified 12 projects which the NIC believes should see rapid progress within the next year, including the third runway at Heathrow, HS2, the second stage of the Crossrail project, a new Thames crossing to relieve pressure at the Dartford Crossing, plans for supporting renewable energy, expanding access to broadband and preparing for the deployment of 5G technology.

Adonis' comments follow a commitment from the government in last week's Queen's Speech that legislation for the next stage of HS2 would come before parliament in the current session. The NIC statement is one of the first major moves by the agency, which was put on a permanent footing by the UK Treasury in January this year.

Infrastructure expert Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the intervention from Adonis was very welcome.

“It shows how helpful the NIC is going to be, particularly at a time where we have a minority government with many other priorities and distractions,” Owen said. “Despite what was said in the Queen's Speech about the government continuing to invest in infrastructure for economic growth, quite what that means in practice beyond HS2 Phase 2, particularly in the case of large schemes, is currently unclear.

“What Lord Adonis said is really helpful and provides a much-needed voice from a very senior and experienced person to keep these projects on track on track. A lot of the projects in the 12 have already got government support, but they need continued pushes to get them over the line,” Owen said.

A number of the projects identified have been in preparation for a number of years. The government backed a third runway at Heathrow last year, after a recommendation from the Independent Airports Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies in 2015. The NIC wants the government to complete preparatory work for a parliamentary decision on the runway by May 2018.

Phase 1 of construction of the HS2 railway is scheduled to begin this year and last November the government committed to Phase 2 of the project, expanding it north from the Midlands. The NIC pressed for the promised introduction of the legislation to support Phase 2a, publish the route for Phase 2b, and tender contracts for the project by the end of July.

The NIC said the government needed to publish its strategy and plans for projects including water and flood defence infrastructure, the support of renewable energy and plans for smart energy systems.

Speaking to the Institution of Civil Engineers, Adonis said: “Brexit and the hung parliament must not lead to dither and delay on the key infrastructure challenges facing the country. We need to press on with decisions on Heathrow, HS2 to the North of England, new electricity generating capacity, and radical improvements to digital communications, to underpin jobs and economic growth.”

Adonis' calls were backed by the British Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry and the National Federation of Small Businesses.