A great month for UK infrastructure

George Osborne’s recent Budget was an array of good news for the UK’s infrastructure programme, says EY's Amanda Clack.

The Budget saw an endorsement and correlation between Lord Adonis’ National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recommendations and the government’s commitment to back key infrastructure programmes. 

The Budget included reaffirmation of the key rail delivery plans for Crossrail 2 and High Speed 3, as well as the strategic investment for roads including the A66 and A69. The packages and measures set out are a bold step forward for continuing to improve the long overdue upgrading of public transport in London, while also accelerating the economic growth envisioned in the Northern Powerhouse. With National Infrastructure Commission support and government funding, it looks like Transport for the North will now have the teeth to deliver a comprehensive transport strategy for the region.

There also continues to be a strong endorsement of devolution. With elections coming up in May for city-region mayors, empowering local leaders to take key decisions on infrastructure will be a further step towards moving power from Whitehall to the town hall. Leeds, however, will no doubt be disappointed that there was no city deal for them, as some hoped that the Chancellor would announce a deal to devolve more cash and powers.

Now that Crossrail 2 has full government support, it is critical that funding and delivery are progressed efficiently in order to gain the confidence of the travelling public. People want to see spades in the ground sooner rather than later and, unlike with Crossrail 1 (the newly-renamed Elizabeth Line), we cannot afford to wait 30 years for Crossrail 2 to be completed. 

Plus of course last Wednesday saw the launch of the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan (NIDP). The NIDP has been introduced to replace the previous National Infrastructure Plan and aims to set out a refreshed pipeline of investment of the infrastructure that will be built. It details over 600 infrastructure projects and programmes representing an investment of £425 billion, of which £297 billion will be spent over the next five years. Alongside key social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and prisons, it includes large-scale housing and regeneration projects. 

The NIDP improves the visibility for investors as well as the supply chain, plus also emphasises the role of the National Infrastructure Commission in setting out the UK's priorities up to 2050, supported by a robust National Needs Assessment. 

I am sure institutional and private investors will be buoyed by these various commitments as it provides much needed confidence, and we can expect the public and private sectors to continue working together on innovative funding and delivery mechanisms. 

This has been a great month for UK infrastructure. The Budget recognises the importance of infrastructure investment to the economy both in terms of connectivity and resilience. Through the NIDP we now have a robust plan giving visibility of forthcoming infrastructure work, combined with the IPA’s role to seek to help improve the performance of infrastructure delivery through improved project appraisal, selection, resilience, and stronger assurance. 

It is an exciting time to be in infrastructure as we start providing tomorrow’s infrastructure today.

Amanda Clack is Head of Infrastructure Advisory at EY


I agreed totally with Amanda's comments but I think that we do have to build solid IP foundations to ensure that we deliver all of the promised infrastructure effectively and with value for money to the public. At the moment the IP available for cost forecasting and cost control of infrastructure is sadly lacking. Its absence will cause both Government and the industry much embarrassment before long if the engineering and surveying professions do not get together to build on the work done to date by Network Rail and the Highways Agency to fill the void. There is a huge opportunity for both here in the UK and internationally.