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Will the National Infrastructure Commission ‘get London building’?

The chancellor, George Osborne, has formally launched the National Infrastructure Commission, a new independent body charged with looking at the UK’s long-term infrastructure needs, providing impartial advice to ministers and holding government to account for delivery.

Chaired by former Cabinet Minister Lord Adonis, the commission also includes Lord Heseltine and Sir John Armitt, as well as Bridget Rosewell, Chief Economic Adviser to the Greater London Authority.

The commission will produce a report at the start of each five-year Parliament, offering recommendations for priority infrastructure projects. More immediately, the new commission will focus on three key areas – providing recommendations on each to the Chancellor for next March’s Budget. Detailed terms of reference can be found here, but in summary these are:

  • London’s transport system: particularly reviewing strategic options and identifying priorities for future investment in large scale transport improvements – on road, rail and underground – including Crossrail 2,
  • Northern connectivity: particularly identifying priorities for future investment in the North’s strategic transport infrastructure to improve connectivity between cities, especially east-west across the Pennines,
  • Energy: particularly exploring how the UK can better balance supply and demand, aiming for an energy market where prices are reflective of costs to the overall system.

Navigating the commission’s review successfully is now a key hurdle for Crossrail 2 as despite the Chancellor’s enthusiasm, there will be many in the Treasury who would be happy for the project to remain on hold.

In Lord Adonis, however, the project does at least have a champion. London First members will recall that our Crossrail 2 task force was chaired by Lord Adonis and the resulting report, Crossrail 2: supporting London’s Growth, came out resoundingly behind the scheme as the key transport project required for London in the 2020s. We will continue to work with our members and Transport for London over the coming months to make the case for this vital project.

More generally, writing in Construction News, Infrastructure Director David Leam has highlighted two initial tests that government must meet if the Commission is to be a credible advisory body.

First, the government must put hard cash behind its aspiration to place infrastructure at the heart of its upcoming spending review. Second, while aviation is off limits for the new body, if the Airports Commission is to act as a meaningful model for the infrastructure commission, government must now accept and implement its recommendations for a new runway in the South East.

London First has also agreed to work with commission member Sir John Armitt, as the new President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, to help shape the commission’s first national needs assessment. Further details can be found here.

Contact David Leam, dleam@londonfirst.co.uk

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