Heathrow expansion and better broadband: Britain's key infrastructure priorities from now to 2050

Rebecca Smith
Lord Adonis called slow progress on Heathrow expansion the most serious infrastructure failure of all
Lord Adonis called slow progress on Heathrow expansion the most serious infrastructure failure of all (Source: Getty)

The head of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said today that Heathrow expansion is “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all” as he sets out the most pressing needs for Britain from now until 2050.

“We’ve spent 13 years talking about a new runway – it’s now time to get on with it and open by the mid-2020s,” Lord Adonis, chair of the NIC, added.

Adonis launched the NIC’s first national assessment in Birmingham today, and warned the current state of UK infrastructure could hold the country back if congestion, capacity and carbon aren’t tackled.

Read more: Crossrail 2 boss aims to get project's cost-cutting plan backed this autumn

Infrastructure priorities from now to 2050:

  • Congestion: Tackle through Heathrow expansion, investing in HS3 and Crossrail 2, as well as improved public transport and cycling services within cities
  • Capacity: Ensure everyone has access to the latest digital communications tech, build new infrastructure to support new homes, have sufficient water supply and flood protection to manage extremes of weather
  • Carbon: Gear up for electric vehicles, face up to the challenge of removing carbon emissions from heating and waste, take advantage of the falling costs of renewables in electricity generation

Without doing so, the UK is set to face gridlock on the roads, railways and skies, along with slow mobile and broadband connectivity and deteriorating air quality, Adonis warned.

Adonis said for years “funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain”.

But he added that local leaders needed to take on the challenge too, as it's not just a job for Whitehall. The launch of the infrastructure assessment today comes alongside five of the country's seven mayors.

He said:

If we are to make the most of our economic potential and compete globally, we need the ‘Heathrow is full’ sign to come down.

“But we also risk falling behind internationally if we don’t improve our mobile and broadband connections, and residents of our great cities will suffer unless we do something to improve air quality.

The interim national infrastructure assessment consultation is open to responses until January.

In response to the NIC report, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "Excellent quality, modern infrastructure underpins everything we do as a country and without a clear plan for future investment, London and the UK will falter."

The UK's current congestion and capacity shortages
  • Lags behind the likes of the USA, Netherlands and Japan for 4G and broadband speeds
  • Between 2012-2015, speeds on inner London roads fell by up to nine per cent
  • Overcrowding on rail services during peak times in London rose by 45 per cent between 2011-2016
  • Over 60 per cent of the UK's power stations will need to be replaced to meet carbon targets

Read more: Heathrow sets out fresh plans to tackle emission trouble

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