16 May 2024

National Infrastructure Commission's Infrastructure Progress Review for 2024

The government’s progress on infrastructure policy, funding and delivery.

The state of infrastructure policy, funding, and delivery in the UK remains a mixed bag, with progress in some areas and setbacks in others. A comprehensive approach is needed to achieve goals such as net zero emissions, regional growth, and resilience while safeguarding the environment. Let's delve into the key points highlighted in the National Infrastructure Commission's Infrastructure Progress Review for 2024.

Areas of Progress:

The government has made strides in extending devolution arrangements across England and revising key policies in energy, national networks, and water resources. Digital network deployment is on track to meet targets, particularly in achieving gigabit-capable broadband coverage.

Challenges and Setbacks:

However, certain areas have seen little to no progress or even regression. Last-minute changes to heat policy have created uncertainty, hindering the transition from fossil fuel heating. Scrapping the second leg of High Speed 2 without concrete alternative plans risks inhibiting economic growth in affected regions.

External Shocks and Disruptions:

The government has faced disruptions from external shocks like the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, exacerbating delays in infrastructure planning and delivery. Accelerating planning and delivery processes is imperative to catch up and ensure infrastructure adequacy.

Policy Stability and Implementation:

To address these challenges, the government needs to provide policy stability, make faster decisions, and commit to long-term plans. Ambitious goals must be backed by robust implementation plans and scaled-up policies.

Infrastructure Gap and Global Context:

The UK faces an infrastructure gap between current assets and future needs, a challenge echoed globally. Ageing infrastructure systems require maintenance, resilience enhancement, and decarbonisation efforts.

Investment and Funding:

Significant investment, both public and private, is necessary to bridge the infrastructure gap. The government's commitment to increase public investment is commendable, but sustained funding is essential beyond 2024-25.

Delivering Net Zero:

Achieving net zero emissions requires substantial changes in energy infrastructure. While progress has been made in renewable energy generation, challenges remain in transitioning to low-carbon heating solutions like heat pumps and addressing the role of hydrogen.

Regional Growth and Connectivity:

Improving transport connectivity, especially in regional cities and interurban networks, is vital for economic growth. While there have been funding announcements, greater specificity and long-term planning are needed to address connectivity challenges effectively.

Digital Infrastructure:

Progress in digital infrastructure deployment is notable, but efforts should continue to accelerate the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and 5G networks.

Environmental Resilience:

Efforts to improve environmental resilience, waste management, water quality, and flood risk mitigation require accelerated action and strategic planning.

In conclusion, addressing infrastructure challenges requires a coordinated and sustained effort from the government, regulators, and industry. Long-term planning, stable policies, increased investment, and efficient implementation are crucial to building resilient, sustainable, and low-carbon infrastructure for the future.

Key Commission recommendations that need to be delivered over the next five years (taken from the second National Infrastructure Assessment):

Delivering Net Zero:

  • Support the delivery of short-duration flexibility in the electricity system and target at least 65% renewable energy generation by 2030.
  • Deploy low-carbon flexibility and hydrogen-fired generation projects, while avoiding unabated gas generation beyond 2040.
  • Establish core pipeline networks for carbon and hydrogen, and enhance network infrastructure to support the transition to net zero.
  • Increase energy system resilience by establishing a strategic energy reserve and promoting a strategic transition to low-carbon heating.
  • Accelerate the rollout of public charging points and commit to decarbonising freight to support transport decarbonisation.

Growth across Regions:

  • Provide funding for major transport projects in cities, starting with Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, and Manchester.
  • Agree on financial settlements for mayoral combined authorities and devolve transport budgets to county councils and unitary authorities.
  • Prioritise maintaining and renewing existing road and rail networks, and develop a 30-year investment pipeline for interurban transport.
  • Ensure gigabit-capable connectivity everywhere by 2030 and support market-led deployment of 5G.

Environment and Resilience:

  • Publish resilience standards for energy, water, digital, and transport services by 2025 and require infrastructure operators to estimate resilience costs.
  • Work to prevent surface water flooding set long-term flood risk reduction targets, and improve natural capital through integrated maintenance and renewals.
  • Implement waste collection and packaging reforms to meet recycling targets and ban new long-term contracts for energy from waste plants without carbon capture plans.
  • Making Good Decisions, Fast:
  • Introduce regular reviews of National Policy Statements and a central coordination mechanism for infrastructure planning.
  • Publish a framework of direct benefits for affected communities and enhance environmental management for major infrastructure projects.
  • Refresh Strategic Policy Statements for regulators and empower them to facilitate strategic investment.
  • Reform public spending frameworks and incorporate new guidance on project design principles.



Teodora Kaneva

Teodora Kaneva

Head of Smart Infrastructure and Systems, techUK


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