On Wednesday the National Infrastructure Commission published its ‘Second National Infrastructure Assessment’, providing government with advice on the UK's long-term infrastructure needs.
England’s Economic Heartland welcomes its recommendation to give all county and unitary authorities devolved long-term transport budgets. This is something EEH’s Board has consistently asked for. It would give local authorities – who know their areas better than anyone else - the certainty to plan in a genuinely strategic way – supported by sub-national transport bodies such as EEH.
The NIC has recommended a 20 per cent increase on current spending levels for transport infrastructure and says sub-national transport bodies have a key role in identifying opportunities for transport to support regional and local economic growth. We welcome this and already have the evidence in place to back up identified investment priorities.
The report also recognises the leading role that local authorities have in the roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. EEH is already helping its partners plan public charging points, but as the NIC points out, to achieve the increase required, local authorities must be sufficiently equipped and supported.
Much of the report is focused on the needs of large metropolitan areas – and particularly four of the UK’s biggest cities. Given this is a ‘national’ infrastructure assessment, we find this focus disappointing. It ignores the very real challenge for swathes of the country – including the EEH region – where growing cities, towns and economic areas such as the Silverstone cluster pack a punch way above their size. Identifying and funding solutions to improve connectivity in these places is vital, whether that be ensuring we maximise opportunities enabled by East West Rail, improve bus services, ensure our strategic roads are fit for purpose or develop mass transit systems in places such as Milton Keynes, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.