HS2

19.11.15

Infrastructure commission will secure long-term, cross-party investment, firms say

The new National Infrastructure Commission is a breath of fresh air in an often partisan and short-sighted industry, and could help the supply chain secure investment and recruitment, rail bosses have said.

Simon Kirby, head of HS2, said large and strategic infrastructure investment decisions are ones that the country has to live with for centuries, regardless of who is in power. Because of this, it is essential that projects are integrated and well thought-through.

Referencing the fact that the UK population is growing, he said at RTM’s TransCity Rail North event last week: “People need to start thinking where they are going to live, how they are going to get around the country. These sorts of conversations now will deliver infrastructure in that sort of timeframe.

“I think it’s great that we’re actually thinking beyond just five years and how we get to the next election.”

Philip Hoare, Group MD at Atkins Transportation, said the commission – created by the government last month to boost national projects by £100bn – is something the industry has “longed for”.

He pointed to the importance of taking party-politics out of big national infrastructure decision-making, to help guarantee project certainty and a long-term investment plan that the supply chain can rely on.

“You have some certainty that [infrastructure projects] are going to happen, no matter what the party-politics are around the infrastructure schemes themselves. To take it out of the political cycle will actually allow organisations like ourselves and others to really think about long-term investment, and that’s clearly going to be good for us,” he continued.

Hoare also noted how strong, independent programmes are closely linked to the industry’s workforce, arguing that firms need to have confidence about long-term investment in order to recruit employees.

And Nick Hughes, Hitachi Rail Europe’s sales director, said the wider supply chain strongly embraced the commission: “It gives us that opportunity to put plans in place and, from a supply chain perspective, we want to invest in the industry. What we’re looking for is a clear plan with some concise actions that we can invest in.”

When asked how he felt after receiving an invitation from a Conservative chancellor to lead the independent commission, Lord Adonis – a former Labour transport secretary who resigned his party’s whip in the Lords to take the new post – reiterated: “This is a national, not party, project. It’s very important to see it that way. Of course, ideas for a national independent infrastructure commission have been in the ether for many years. Australia has something quite similar and New Zealand has been taking it forward in a similar way.

“It’s an idea whose time has come, and I hope it can establish a strong cross-party agreement behind it.”

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