Treasury seeks views on National Infra Commission

Sir John Armitt updates us on the National Infrastructure Commission’s progress as the UK Treasury asks for views on how it should work.

Treasury is calling on the infrastructure industry to share its views “on the governance, structure and operation” of the newly established National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The consultation, which will close on 17 March, comes as the NIC itself finished gathering views from industry today on three pieces of work it has been asked to do by Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the March budget.

“There are three short to medium-term pieces of work which we’ve got going”, NIC commissioner Sir John Armitt told Infrastructure Investor just before Christmas. “One, is to look at transport in London and particularly at the viability of Crossrail 2. The second one is to look at energy security in the UK going forward as well as the extent to which energy storage may have a role to play. And the third is to look at the northern cities and [find out] whether improving the rail infrastructure in the north is the right thing to be doing, or whether there are other improvements [to be done to] roads or motorway connections.”

He continued: “If you take Crossrail 2, we’ve already had a presentation from TfL [Transport for London] talking about what the key arguments are, the need for it and its economic drivers. So again, we will talk to all the interested parties and try and understand the pros and cons of the project. Of course, TfL are trying to get the Chancellor’s support to take [Crossrail 2] to the next stage. But the Chancellor has the budget coming up in March and he needs to know the extent to which he should continue to give TfL central government support to take the project forward.”

In an interview to be published in our February issue, Armitt explained that “a lot of the NIC’s work could potentially be about policy options as it could be about physical infrastructure and getting the debate about policy options out in the open. So when it comes time for the final decision to be made, politicians have a large amount of independent advice and the public is hopefully better informed. It also hopefully creates some better chances for cross-party consensus.”

Armitt, who successfully delivered the London Olympics, first mooted the idea of the NIC for the Labour Party in 2012. Chancellor George Osborne ended up launching it last October, headed by Andrew Adonis, a former schools minister, policy chief under Tony Blair, and most recently Labour whip in the House of Lords. Adonis is credited for being the brain behind the UK’s schools academy programme and second high-speed rail (HS2) line.

*Sir John Armitt will be a keynote speaker at the Infrastructure Investor Berlin Summit 2016