Commission sets out infrastructure vision

July 11 2018  

Commission sets out infrastructure vision
Road user charging “cannot be avoided forever” according to the National Infrastructure Commission, which yesterday published its first long term assessment of UK infrastructure.
The impending shift to electric vehicles means the current system of road taxation is “not sustainable” and road pricing can pay for better road infrastructure, the Commission said. It pledged to explore new ways to engage with the public and stakeholders on road pricing options.
To help meet an expected surge in electric vehicles the Commission recommends that Government works with Ofgem and local authorities to enable a roll out of charging infrastructure sufficient to allow consumer demand “to reach close to 100% electric new car and van sales by 2030”.
A core network of fast or rapid chargers should be installed, the assessment says, at visible locations across the UK to tackle range anxiety, but most charging should be done ‘slow and smart’. It also says that local authorities should be required to allocate 5% of their parking spaces – including those on street – to accept electric vehicle charge points by 2020; increasing to 20% by 2025.
Government is also asked to subsidise the provision of rapid charge points in rural and remote areas by 2022, where the market will not deliver in the short term, and to establish a centre for advanced transport technology to better align innovations and investment proposals.
Also included in the National Infrastructure Assessment is a recommendation that Government provides cities with five year devolved urban transport infrastructure budgets from 2021 and that metro mayors and city leaders develop long term strategies covering transport, employment and housing to support growth. One of its core proposals is that £43Bn of long term transport funding is provided for regional cities by 2040.
Efforts to tackle the local highways maintenance backlog should be addressed, the assessment adds, by allocating an extra £500M for road repairs each year for the decade beyond 2025.
While transport investment priorities for the next few years should support new infrastructure networks such as electric vehicle charging, by the 2030s the focus should be on improving urban transport rather than intercity networks, the document adds.
The Commission also recommends that local authorities are given further powers to capture a fair proportion of the land value increase from planning and infrastructure provision.
It also proposes that good design is embedded into the culture of infrastructure planning to save money, support environmental net gain and create a legacy “that looks good and works well”. To this end, Government should ensure that all nationally significant infrastructure projects have a design champion and use a design panel.
In the longer term, the Assessment says that connected and autonomous vehicles will bring great change to roads in the UK. Traffic lights and stop signs may become unnecessary, speed limits could be higher and the use of road space may begin to change according to need. Government must, it says, start taking potential future transport impacts into account now as it makes investment plans.
The National Infrastructure Assessment is described as a plan of action for the next 30 years and covers energy, water and waste, flooding and digital connectivity as well as transport. The National Infrastructure Commission will carry out the assessment every five years.
Commission chair Sir John Armitt said: “The whole purpose of the UK’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment is to think beyond the technologies of today and to ensure we can make the most of future innovations.
“This is not some unaffordable wish list of projects: it sets a clear direction for how to meet the country’s future infrastructure needs and makes a realistic assessment of what can and should be delivered within the stated aim of Ministers for steady and continued investment over the coming years.
“Our analysis and proposals will not satisfy everyone. But the recommendations represent our considered view of how we can best create infrastructure which enables a fair, productive and green society for the whole country.”
A Government spokesman said: “Improving the UK’s infrastructure is at the heart of our plan to boost growth and productivity. By the end of this Parliament, investment in infrastructure will have doubled in a decade, to at least £24Bn. We established the National Infrastructure Commission to provide independent, expert advice and this report does exactly that. We will respond in due course.”
(Photo: Highways England)

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