Where to from here for the UK’s infrastructure?

Infrastructure challenges Ellis Fox Blog

It was inevitable with rising costs and associated controversy that there was a risk of HS2 not being delivered according to plan. Now that phase 2 has been cancelled, it’s giving rise to a number of debates within the industry.

What went wrong? The list is pretty long, but there are few that top the list. The challenge is, will industry feedback have any impact?

Planning and approval   

Most will agree that the time taken in planning phases is far too lengthy. With inflation at current levels, planning budgets have no hope of being met by the time building actually happens. Especially if external geopolitical factors continue to impact supply markets. If the planning process can be sped up with clearer information being made available to all affected communities, and more effective collaboration between all stakeholders, will it make a difference?

Investment climate

It’s difficult to attract investment, especially when taxes and incentives keep changing. Recent turnabouts on clean energy goals, is sending mixed messages to investors. While there’s a call for more investment in renewables and clean energies, it still needs to make business sense.

Also, priorities for investments are changing. Having infrastructure that is resilient to climate events is becoming increasingly necessary. This has the potential to either delay or accelerate investment. Projects may be put on hold is there’s a question about their resilience. On the other hand a fully detailed plan could fast-track investment.

Policy flip-flops

While debate is a necessary part of developing policy, in recent years continual flip flopping is hindering progress. Most companies will not start a project if it could be impacted by policy changes. They’re rather not invest the money until there is clarity on where they stand and what new regulations may or may not impact a project. The challenge is policy is usually tied to political motive rather than what the infrastructure industry needs. If history is any indicator this is unlikely to change.

Recognising potential

The frustration for many is that if done right, infrastructure can be part of the solution. Delivering both economic growth and helping progress sustainability goals. But it’s getting consensus on what that looks like isn’t going to be easy. Should the industry simply forge ahead and can they without investment and policy in place? Perhaps it’s a matter of recognising what the priorities should be for infrastructure.