UK Engineers Tell Government Put Up or Shut Up

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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
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The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has told the UK Government to stop the talking and shift the infrastructure agenda into “delivery mode.”

The ICE says the “top 40” projects listed in the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) are too broad and not set against clear strategic goals, adding that the government had “signalled its commitment” but had not actually done much for infrastructure.

In a paper submitted to Infrastructure UK, the leading body for engineers said the next NIP, due to be published with the autumn statement, must focus on creating a “robust and focused delivery plan” that facilitates faster and more effective delivery of work on the ground.

“The NIP has a critical role in enabling the UK to compete in a modern world, creating jobs and growth and providing the stability for the UK to grow its engineering skills and capacity,” said ICE director general Nick Baveystock. “The first two editions set out a much needed and welcome vision for UK infrastructure, but the need for it to evolve into a robust and focused delivery plan is growing.”

Baveystock said that going forward, the NIP should focus on long-term strategy and rapid execution.

“The next version of the NIP should clearly identify those projects which are of genuine strategic significance in delivering long term improvements to the UK’s economic performance and quality of life, and pave the way for their fast delivery,” he said. “It should also set out – for the delivery of each priority project – Government’s role, an accountable Minister or official and clear progress on delivery.”

The ICE also called for early introduction of the promised legislation to end stop/start investment patterns in the UK’s roads, which have long hindered maintenance and management of these assets.

“The proposal to create an arm’s length Highways Agency with a multi-year funding settlement is welcome,” Baveystock said. “The highways sector has suffered more than others from stop/start investment and capricious decision making and these steps therefore signal Government’s commitment to making decisions for the long term. Prompt introduction of the promised legislation to implement the proposals, is however critical.”

To further push the infrastructure agenda, the ICE has asked for input from its members for the next State of the Nation publication. The report will feature a scorecard-style report assessing the UK’s economic infrastructure network. Set for release next summer, it aims to influence political party manifestos ahead of the next UK General Election on May 7, 2015.

The report will assess and grade the capacity, condition and performance of the UK’s infrastructure sectors and provide a set of recommendations as to how network performance can be improved and barriers to delivery can be addressed.

It will focus on transport, water, energy and waste as well as a number of other important economic areas and issues relevant to UK infrastructure and civil engineering, such as skills and investment.

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