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  • by Karma Loveday

Government infrastructure advisor calls for faster progress

National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) chair, Sir John Armitt, has urged ministers to go further and faster to meet the country’s infrastructure needs.

Speaking as the Commission published its second Annual Monitoring Report, Armitt (pictured) urged the government to:

• adopt a clear National Infrastructure Strategy – he highlighted the fully-costed and ambitious recommendations in the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, and urged ministers to adopt them in the National Infrastructure Strategy it has committed to produce this year; and

• to make “bold and brave” decisions.

He explained that to date, the recommendations adopted and enacted by ministers have been the quickest to implement, and he urged action on those more challenging proposals from the Commission’s reports that the government has committed to enact but where progress has been lagging. These especially include recommendations that cut across more than one government department, and offer the opportunity for better and closer working between ministers and officials to achieve.

The Commission's Annual Monitoring Report,unveiled last week assesses the government’s actions against the recommendations the NIC made in its earlier National Infrastructure Assessment and six additional reports.

The Commission said 42 of its 45 recommendations had been accepted by government and ten were considered to have been fully met – including the introduction of better measuring of mobile connectivity, moves towards improving rail connections between Leeds and Manchester and efforts to deliver a smart and flexible energy system.

The Commission noted ministers had already agreed to the NIC’s recommendation that water leakages be halved by 2050.

It said: “However, progress against the remaining 32 recommendations accepted by government has been varied. There are many areas where significantly increased momentum is required to meet the Commission’s recommendations.”

The chair highlighted the poor progress made towards improving mobile connections on the UK’s road and rail networks – an issue on which greater ambition and better coordination between departments could deliver much needed service improvements for passengers.

• The NIC also last week launched a recruitment drive for members for a new Design Group. Commissioner, Professor Sadie Morgan, who will chair the group, called on professionals with backgrounds ranging from the built environment to ecology, and engineering to sustainability, to submit applications to become members. The group will play an important role putting design at the heart of major projects.

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