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CBI: Give teeth to National Infrastructure Commission to plan for UK's long-term future

Firms want Commission to get started on eight key areas

The National Infrastructure Commission cannot afford to be way-laid by politics, but instead must focus on long-term planning to tackle the challenges the UK will face in coming decades, according to a new CBI paper.

Read Plotting the Course here

In Plotting the Course, the UK’s largest business group outlines eight key areas the Commission should prioritise, including:

  • Delivering a secure, diverse low-carbon energy supply
  • Preparing for the roll-out of 5G mobile connectivity
  • Ensuring the impact of climate change is factored in when planning water supplies and flood defences
  • Devising creative solutions to meet the future growing demand on the UK’s roads, rails and ports.

Rhian Kelly, CBI Business Environment Director, said:

“The National Infrastructure Commission gives the UK the perfect opportunity to carefully and strategically plot the course of its long-term infrastructure needs.

“It allows both Government and business to plan now for the challenges that the decades to come will bring, like the effects of climate change and increased demand on our infrastructure.

“With a strong Commission, we can deliver the projects – from upgrading our digital connectivity to boost productivity, to investing in new energy sources for a low-carbon economy – that will enable firms up and down the country to get on with growing our economy and creating jobs for the long-run.

“For this to happen though, it’s vital the Commission is not blown off course by politics. This independent body must be given strong teeth by politicians so that it can recommend significant infrastructure decisions, like building a new runway in the South East, are made for the future benefit of all.”

The eight priorities for the National Infrastructure Commission are based on the 2015 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey, and on private consultations with CBI members:

Energy generation and supply

  • The UK needs to be able to extract and store energy from a wider range of sources, and embrace the circular economy. Developing new and innovative technologies, such as tidal, hydrogen, and carbon capture should go hand in hand with keeping costs down.

Low carbon energy

  • Moving towards a low-carbon economy means that more of our energy needs must be met through electricity. The electrification of heat and transport would double our current peak electricity demand, but would require significant upgrades to our electricity infrastructure.


  • The need for increased capacity is the top rail priority for 90% of businesses. Modern technology – digitalisation, electrification and high-speed technology – should be used creatively to meet future demand.


  • With almost two thirds of all journeys in the UK taking place by road, a long-term solution is needed to fund upgrades and maintenance to the country’s road network.


  • For the UK to remain at the top of international digital connectivity tables, it must continue to develop its mobile coverage and make solid preparations for the roll out of 5G technology in the next decade.


  • By the 2050s, weather patterns will have a significant impact on the UK’s water infrastructure. It’s crucial that the future impact of climate change on water supplies is factored in when planning housing and infrastructure.

Flood defences

  • With the total number of properties at risk of flooding set to rise to 2.1 million by 2050, investment must be kept up to ensure Great Britain’s flood defences can withstand the likelihood of increasingly extreme, one-off weather events.

Ports and airports

  • Connectivity at the UK’s ports and airports is a key issue for Britain’s exporters. Increasing accessibility to emerging markets with more direct routes, and integrating the country’s rail and road network with national gateways at the planning stage will give a real boost to British exports and lead to greater trade with global partners.


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