With the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission, the UK has an opportunity to embrace a new approach to longer-term planning of our infrastructure – making sure we are well placed now to tackle the challenges that the coming decades will present. As the Commission gets fully up and running, CBI has identified eight initial challenges to make headway on: see below for an overview, or read Plotting the Course for full details.
1: How can we deliver new technologies, while keeping costs down?
UK businesses are clear a diverse energy mix is key to delivering security of supply. This mix will enable the UK to extract and store energy from a wider range of sources, and become better at embracing the opportunities of a circular economy. Such diversity requires the creation of new and innovative technologies, while managing the costs involved.
2: Will we be able to electrify heat and transport?
Decarbonisation means that more and more of our energy needs must be met through electricity. Electrification of heat and transport, as just one avenue of opportunity, could require the UK to handle almost double our current peak electricity demand.
3: How can digitalisation and high-speed technology help boost capacity across UK rail?
New schemes to expand our capacity, including HS2 and Crossrail, will always be critical, but the UK must also harness electrification, digitalisation, and high speed technology, to maximise the use of existing capacity. Managing demand effectively is also key to integrating rail with other modes of transport - without creating pinch points.
4: What is the long term solution to roads funding in the UK?
The reforms to Vehicle Excise Duty have halted the recent decline in roads revenue from taxation, yet the long term future of roads funding remains unresolved. Long term underinvestment has already created an estimated backlog of maintenance works on the local road network worth up to £8.6bn.
5: How to align the UK's housing and infrastructure with future water supply?
In the south there will be an increased focus on resilience to ensure a secure supply of water: the amount available is projected to decline potentially by as much as 11% due to climate change pressures. In the north meanwhile, an increase in deluges of water over short periods of time, will require infrastructure which can utilise highly variable amounts.
6: How to prepare for the future rollout of 5G?
International competition is starting to plough ahead, with 4G adoption rates in the UK considerably lower than in Asian and North American markets. To stay at the top of the international league table on Next Generation Access, the UK must lay the foundations for the arrival of 5G.
7: How can the UK ensure its flood defences will withstand extreme climate change events?
Government has committed capital funding until 2021, but UK schemes continue to be designed to a lower standard of resilience than elsewhere - in the Netherlands, defences guard against a one-in-1,250 year event.
8: How can the UK's gateways grow our national connectivity?
The connectivity of the UK's ports and airports is critical to driving exports and trade. The challenge in the long term is how to boost their role, given that airports in the South East are expected to continue dominating in terms of passenger numbers, and port freight has yet to recover on its 2005 peak levels.
The key business message on #infrastructure - Plot a long-term course