How can the UK accelerate infrastructure development?
It’s no secret the country’s aging infrastructure is in dire need of improvement. In fact this has been the argument for gaining approval for some of the more ambitious rail projects such as Crossrail and HS2. The problem is that while most people will agree on what’s needed, it’s still a slow process to get to the end result. Even once construction begins, project delays and budget overruns become the norm. The UK needs better infrastructure, and it needs to roll out faster. What are some of the key elements to making this happen?
Data and technology
In recent years Highways England has embarked on an ambitious smart highways plan. Once implemented, smart highways provide key data to be able to track traffic volumes and problems. The concept is to improve traffic flow through an automated and proactive traffic management system rather than only being reactive. Being able to use technology such as drones and traffic sensors and correlate data into a central management system can help make traffic management more effective. The over-riding goal is to make roads safer in the process too.
With a vast majority of the workforce operating online, it’s highlighted the need for a broader, faster and more stable communications network. As a result of the pandemic contactless technologies are likely to become mainstream for the foreseeable future. They will need robust networks in order to be effective. Having an integrated digital network will also support other infrastructure development, ensuring the data is able to be shared with the right resources.
In a highly digitized world, having quick and accurate access to information is not just a requirement for industry bodies, the general public wants to be able to stay connected, even while commuting. Whether this means having the ability to continue to work online while commuting or stream a favourite Netflix series, connectivity is vital. Infrastructure developers are very aware that they need to be able to meet the technological expectations of their end clients.
A recent report from the Infrastructure Forum highlights the need for specialist skills if infrastructure development is to be accelerated. Rather than project oversight being managed by government committees, specialists have the ability to fast-track implementation through digitalization and collaboration because they have a better understanding of what’s needed and what challenges need to be overcome. But will government be willing to hand over is a question that remains.