Delivering certainty in uncertain times: takeaways from the London Infrastructure Summit
13 September 2019
This year’s Summit brought together the capital’s private and public sector leaders in infrastructure against the backdrop of political turmoil and question marks over future investment in projects both in London and across the UK.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that the buzzwords of the day were “certainty” and “stability”, with many of the speakers and delegates making the clear point that what’s needed is a stable trajectory with a long-term Government commitment to infrastructure funding. It was strongly argued by many of the panellists and experts that the upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) is an opportunity to provide some certainty. Expected later this year, it will be a critical test of the Government’s credibility in this space.
To create the stability needed the NIS should back the National Infrastructure Commission’s fully costed long-term investment plan. Investing at least 1.2% GDP every year would reverse decades of underinvestment in British infrastructure and give our cities and regions stable funding for local transport priorities.
Stable government funding is also needed to unlock private capital. Of the projected £600bn infrastructure investment pipeline for the next ten years, half is expected to come from the private sector, so the Government needs to create the right incentives that manage risk and reward. The outcome of the Treasury’s Infrastructure Finance Review is eagerly anticipated here.
While investment is needed across the UK, Mike Brown, Transport for London Commissioner, called on Government not to lose sight of London’s needs if we want the capital to maintain its place as a leading global city. He gave a stark warning that London is on the “cliff edge” of returning to the underinvestment of the 1970s and 1980s unless we get a grip on strategic investment.
Mr Brown rightly pointed out that projects like Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo line extension will not only deliver much-needed capacity to the transport network, but also unlock land for housing. And he highlighted the critical importance of some of the unseen upgrades to the Tube network in delivering additional capacity and dealing with overcrowding. For example, the Piccadilly line signalling upgrade can deliver a 60% capacity boost, but is being held back by ongoing uncertainty over funding.
Despite the political uncertainty there was still much to celebrate on the day. Jasmine Whitbread, London First’s Chief Executive, spoke of the need to “talk our capabilities up not down, building confidence and encouraging investment” in her opening speech – a point echoed throughout the Summit. The panel sessions across the day also looked towards the future. We heard about the expansion plans of London’s airports, the future of mobility, the increasing importance of digital as well as a deep dive on encouraging private investment, how to improve project delivery and opportunities in West London.
There’s not enough space to mention all of the stellar speakers and panels here, but keep an eye on the London First blog for a series reflecting on these points and more from the 2019 London Infrastructure Summit, including our take on what needs to happen next.
Finally, a huge thank you to headline partner Uber; conference partners Atkins, Capita, Grant Thornton, Intel, Mastercard, Mott Macdonald and Turner & Townsend; conference associates dar, London City Airport and Port of London Authority; and support partners ACE, CECA and ICE for making the Summit such a success.
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