Senior representatives from London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Business West met with Philip Graham, Chief Executive of the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC) on Thursday (17th February).
Representatives from the three chambers met with Philip Graham to discuss the future of transport investment and to explore how best to ensure that the government commits to the £43 billion of investment recommended by the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment published in July 2018.
Long-term investment in transport will help build confidence in regional economies creating a climate for greater investment and regeneration. The certainty provided by committed funds will allow regional economies to take a more strategic long-term view.
The lunch was attended by representatives from a range of members including Bristol Airport and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Attendees discussed the important role the NIC plays in identifying the UK’s infrastructural requirement beyond the normal five-year parliamentary terms. Infrastructure must be planned beyond the lifespan of a single government and – with political focus currently diverted to Brexit – it is crucial that the conversation about infrastructure planning and its funding recaptures its urgency.
The focus on ambitious strategic projects such as HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2 must continue and there must be support available to develop better urban networks outside London, the funding of which could be drawn from the NIC’s recommended £43 billion funding pot.
Whilst regions do have advanced devolution models it was agreed there should be better coordination around housing, transport and employment opportunities; infrastructure should be at the heart of this coordination.
Huge challenges remain but the course and direction that the NIC is taking as an effective way of tackling UK infrastructure strategy is widely accepted as the right way.
Colin Stanbridge, CEO of London Chamber of Commerce said:
“It was a great opportunity to have a senior civil servant responsible for such a hugely important area to not only discuss current issues but look ahead and consider ways that our future campaign work could be delivered. Business support for the NIC is crucial.
“The consensus is that more needs to be done and the government has to shift the focus back to this – it is only with effective long-term funding for regional transport that economic success can be delivered. Elected mayors supported by greater local input into the system shall see the UK start to get the networks and systems it needs.”
Clive Memmott, CEO of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce said:
“The devolution of transport in the Uk is welcomed but it is also long overdue. However, it must not compromise the development of a fully integrated national transport infrastructure strategy that is coherent and ambitious from a users perspective. With so many demands made on the limited funds available from the government for infrastructure, it is vital that at all levels - from regional bodies to city regions - there is genuine joined-up and supportive thinking, planning, governance and delivery. It is not enough to have a statutory body such as Transport for the North if there is no direct equivalent at a national level. Regional and national interests have to be balanced carefully and are not mutually exclusive.
“We will continue to work with the NIC who fully understand how this must work and we look forward to hosting our joint chamber transport summit in Manchester in March to explore this further."