The head of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission has urged investors to “look beyond the headlines” following the result of last week’s general election.
Lord Adonis expressed confidence at the UK’s National Infrastructure Forum that the country’s £500 billion ($636.7 billion; €568.2 billion) infrastructure pipeline will survive the hung parliament result, an outcome that left the ruling Conservative party as the largest but requiring a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to maintain a majority.
“We have a very good track record in this country that once the decisions are made to invest in major infrastructure projects we stick to them – it’s on that basis that I am so confident, because plans for HS2 and Crossrail do have such broad cross-party support and are continuing,” he told Infrastructure Investor.
While the construction of Heathrow Airport’s third runway has regularly attracted much more political opposition, Lord Adonis believes there is more than enough backing in parliament to see the decision pass in a free vote sometime next year. He told investors not to be distracted by recent headlines around instability and uncertainty, adding that discussions over the £31 billion Crossrail 2 project are at “an advanced stage”.
“There is a broad political consensus around the major projects already decided and I have every confidence that the election result, and upcoming talks on Brexit, will not change that,” he said.
A COUNTRY FOR THE FUTURE
There was a point last year after Theresa May took over as Prime Minister where parts, or all, of three of the country’s major infrastructure projects – Heathrow, Hinkley Point C and HS2 – looked set to be scrapped. In September, insurance firm Legal & General’s chief executive Nigel Wilson called for the replacing of the “three Hs” in favour of the “three Gs” of Gatwick Airport expansion, green energy and a Great Northern railway, but Lord Adonis sees no reason for not accommodating both in the UK’s infrastructure landscape.
“The case for the 3 ‘Hs’ has already been made and progress is being made – but I would agree that should not mean excluding other opportunities,” he stated. “I have every confidence in the work of Transport for the North on a plan for HS3, or a Northern railway; and clearly we will need more renewable energy sources, and energy storage, if we are to meet our climate change commitments.”
Lord Adonis also praised the “ambitious roll-out timetable” of the government’s 5G plans. He expected the programme to begin in the next 18 months, despite the government stating deployment at a commercial scale is “still some way off” when it revealed plans to make the UK a “world leader” in the technology in its Budget release in March.
Lord Adonis also stressed Britain’s £200 billion energy financing needs from 2015 to 2030, a figure he said needs to be carefully balanced between generation and transmission investments.