The government today faces criticism on the slow pace of progress on major infrastructure projects such as expanding Heathrow.
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) believes that the government’s credibility on major projects now rests on making a final decision on Heathrow’s third runway this summer, The Times reports.
The Commission says it is “crucial” that a parliamentary vote on expanding the UK’s aviation capacity takes places “without further delay” this summer.
The NIC’s annual monitoring report says: “The proposal for a third runway at London Heathrow reaches a critical stage in 2018 as the government’s National Policy Statement for airports is finalised.
“It is crucial that the government continues drive forward this programme of work such that, once the remaining scrutiny processes are complete, a parliamentary vote takes place on the National Policy Statement as early as possible in summer 2018.”
The government’s advisory body on implementing nationally important projects in transport, energy and communicate was set up by former chancellor George Osborne following an original policy recommendation by the Labour Party.
The NIC’s 90-page monitoring report covers the progress of plans for new runways in the south-east, the construction of a fast rail link between Manchester and Leeds, a second Crossrail line in London and the laying down of a 5G superfast mobile internet network across the country. It describes ministers’ record as “poor”.
Chairman Sir John Armitt, who led the 2012 London Olympic Games delivery authority and is a former chief executive of Network Rail, found a lack of urgency in the government’s pace of decision-making on major infrastructure.
He indicated that the failure to make a decision on whether to build a third runway at Heathrow has become a totem of whether the prime minister and her cabinet have the capability or the appetite to deliver difficult but crucial decisions, according to The Times.
“It is imperative that a parliamentary vote on the expansion of Heathrow airport takes place no later than this summer,” Sir John reportedly said. “Any further delay would be irreconcilable with the government’s commitment to deliver the infrastructure that the country needs.”
He added: “There is a disappointing lack of pace in several areas. It is hugely disappointing that nearly two years after the commission’s reports on Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, the government still has not firmly committed to either a timetable or funding, or got a clear plan for delivering either of these nationally significant projects.
“It is vital that decisions on both schemes are made this year and that the government commits to the long-term vision that supports the recommendations we made.”
The commission was initially headed by former Labour minister Lord Adonis, who resigned as chairman at the end of last year in a dispute with transport secretary Chris Grayling.
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