A year ago the government launched its National Infrastructure Plan. It heralded a new era of progress in pushing through major national infrastructure projects. It aimed at accelerating the rate of infrastructure investment. It set out 500 large projects costing £250 billion. It identified a smaller number of priority projects to get on with quickly.
I support a sense of urgency when it comes to providing more energy capacity, more transport capacity, more broadband, and more water and waste water capacity. We have often discussed the need here. So, a year later, how is the government getting on?
Large projects like Crossrail, and the Reading station improvement are continuing. The government highlighted a new stretch of road around Huntingdon for the overloaded A 14 and said this would be built as a priority toll road. They also featured extending the Northern line to Battersea as an early project.
We are now told that the A14 build may commence in 2018. We learn from TFL that new stations at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station could be open for 2019, implying no early commencement of construction works.
All this must be as frustrating for Ministers as for the rest of us. There still seems to be a need to streamline and improve decision making. If the national schemes like the A 14 are to have a beneficial impact on construction output we need to start soon. If they are to relieve bottlenecks and supply much needed new capacity, it would be good to have some of it before the end of the decade.
There are some welcome signs of more activity, a pick up in retail sales, and continuing good job figures. Getting some more shovel ready worthwhile projects up and running would be a positive help.