The identity of the next government might well be uncertain, but regardless of which party or coalition takes up the mantle on the 13 December, they must do so with a clear plan for the UK’s infrastructure, says Chris Richards of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Infrastructure investment is a means to an end and never an end in itself. Investment delivers outcomes for the public, it supports a higher quality of life, helps with mitigation and adaption to climate change and improves the competitiveness of the UK economy within an international context.
ICE wants to see the next government delivering on these ambitions by doing the following:
1. Publish a national strategy for infrastructure: This is a strategy that must be long-term, joined-up and based on the evidence produced by the National Infrastructure Commission. This will ensure the UK is well placed to tackle head on the challenges faced right across the country, be it increasing urbanisation, mitigating the effects of climate change or investing to create sustainable places for people to live, work and play.
2. Take a bold approach to deliver on the legislated net-zero by 2050 greenhouse gas target: While the initial vote was historic, this will pale into insignificance compared to the brave and historic trade-offs that will be required to get us to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
3. Focus on improving the delivery of infrastructure projects and increasing productivity across the built environment sector: There are a number of technologies and approaches that can be readily adopted across the built environment sector. These include common sense steps to reduce the gap between forecasts and out-turns for major projects, greater use of off-site construction for manufacturing, increasing the use of digital solutions to improve productivity and supporting industry-led efforts to adopt the principles of Project 13.
Government as a major client has a leading role to play in driving these changes. The next one should take a more robust approach to making them happen.
The adoption and delivery of this three-point plan will improve infrastructure provision across the UK and as a consequence drive economic growth, protect our natural environment and improve living standards for all.
Chris Richards is head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).