Chair of the Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis has warned the Government to address “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all” and reach a firm decision on expanding Heathrow Airport – an issue yet to be resolved 13 years after the initial statement of policy for a third runway.
His call came in a speech which warned that the UK faces gridlock on the roads, railways and in the skies, slower mobile and broadband connections and ever-worsening air quality unless the Government tackles the ‘three Cs’ – Congestion, Capacity and Carbon.
The chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission argued that the current state of the country’s infrastructure could hold the UK back – and that a long-term plan is needed to ensure that it is fit for the future.
He also warned that the UK risks falling behind other countries in its next generation mobile and broadband connections unless urgent action is taken to increase capacity now and for the future.
He backed calls from local leaders to tackle air quality, particularly in our cities – especially by building the smart charging infrastructure needed for the latest electric vehicles, which will help to reduce harmful carbon emissions.
Among the points made were that the UK lags behind countries including the USA, the Netherlands and Japan for 4G and broadband speeds, that speeds on inner London roads fell by up to nine per cent between 2012 and 2015, and overcrowding on rail services during peak times in London increased by 45 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
Lord Adonis said that the Government must tackle the ‘three Cs’:
- Congestion – as well as making progress on Heathrow, investing in projects including HS3 and Crossrail 2 but also in new and improved public transport and cycling services within our cities;
- Capacity – as well as ensuring everyone has access to the latest digital communications technology, building new infrastructure to support new homes and having sufficient water supply and flood protection to manage extremes of weather; and
- Carbon – as well as getting ready for electric vehicles, facing up to the challenge of removing carbon emissions from heating and waste, and taking advantage of the falling costs of renewables in electricity generation
But he also warned that this is not just a job for Whitehall – speaking at the launch alongside five of the country’s seven Mayors, he will urge local leaders to develop their own plans for infrastructure to meet the needs of their communities.
Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Adonis said: “We have a proud history in this country of delivering world-class infrastructure – but for years funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain.
“The endless delay to a Parliamentary decision on Heathrow is a case in point – and perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all. If we are to make the most of our economic potential and compete globally, we need the ‘Heathrow is full’ sign to come down.
“But we also risk falling behind internationally if we don’t improve our mobile and broadband connections, and residents of our great cities will suffer unless we do something to improve air quality.
“We cannot afford to sit on our hands – Ministers must act now to tackle the Three Cs of congestion, capacity and carbon if we are to have infrastructure fit for the future, supporting economic growth across the country.
“But this doesn’t just rest with Whitehall and Westminster, and I’m pleased that the country’s Mayors are also stepping up to plan to meet the infrastructure needs of their communities.”