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1 OCT 2019

Conservative’s Infrastructure Revolution – but is it future proofed?

Dr Patrice Cairns RICS

Dr Patrice Cairns

Policy Manager, Northern Ireland

Belfast, UK

RICS

Infrastructure is usually a big-ticket item at party conferences, and through the chancellor's speech its status was heightened to an 'infrastructure revolution'.

Chancellor Sajid Javid set out new plans for investment in roads, buses and broadband, in a package of infrastructure measures including:

  • Funding for the first projects in the government's forthcoming second Road Investment Strategy – which will set out plans to deliver on more than £25 billion already committed for strategic roads between 2020 and 2025.
  • £220 million to transform bus services across England. This includes new 'superbus' networks, including the creation of Britain's first ever all-electric bus town, and expanding our fleet of low emission buses, and delivering cheaper travel for passengers.
  • Invest £5 billion to support the roll-out of full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit capable networks to the hardest to reach 20% of the country.

RICS welcome investment in infrastructure as driver for both communities and the economy but would further urge the government to ensure that wider transport funding and strategic planning is undertaken in synergy with ambitions for net zero emissions; integrating active modes of travel including public transport, cycling and walking. As technology in transport evolves, regular reviews should be undertaken of the second Roads Investment Strategy to ensure long-term planning of projects remains viable.

Given the longevity of both transport and telecommunications provision, infrastructure assets are at risk of the adverse impacts of climate change. The government must strive to ensure that resilience to future major disruptions, such as extreme weather events, is embedded within every stage of new public sector project; from commissioning brief to operation and management.

While climate change considerations can be factored into planning and design of projects, processes of construction, maintenance, and operation can significantly contribute to the inherent mitigating problem. Therefore, those decisions made at the front end of design which may seek to address both embodied carbon and resilience to climate change impacts, can be supported by cost data. ICMS 2nd Edition, recently published, extends the current global standard into whole life cycle costs and enables decision-makers to assess the cost impacts of design trade-offs. This is a critical area in achieving sustainable design.

Looking forward to the outcomes of the National Infrastructure Commission study into examining the resilience of the UK's infrastructure, expected in Spring 2020, RICS would urge government together with industry to adopt an asset management focused mindset, ensuring that whole life cost is considered as a basis for infrastructure decision making, and ensuring a funding stream for enhancing resilience of assets.

Dr Patrice Cairns RICS

Dr Patrice Cairns

Policy Manager, Northern Ireland

Belfast, UK

RICS

Dr Cairns is a policy manager within the RICS UK Government Relations team. In addition to developing UK policy and promoting RICS thought leadership, Dr Cairns is responsible for leading RICS public policy work in Northern Ireland across all priority issues and key sectors. She works to build RICS' influence, credibility and profile.

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