On 25 November 2020 the Government published its long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy. It sets out a comprehensive, ambitious plan – the “first of its kind” - for a “renaissance” in national infrastructure, responding to the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 Assessment. The Strategy focusses on five areas: driving recovery and rebuilding the economy in the wake of Covid-19; “levelling up” by investing across the country; decarbonising the economy towards net zero emissions by 2050; supporting private investment; and accelerating and improving delivery of infrastructure projects.

Encompassing both long and short term plans, the Strategy recognises the importance of public and private investment in infrastructure, and the barriers to be overcome. Responding to the detailed recommendations of the NIC’s report, the Strategy agrees that there is a need to address issues including stop-start public investment, insufficient funding outside London, and policy uncertainty. “Private infrastructure investment”, it is noted, “will be crucial for the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic”.

Noting that “the Government needs to do more to attract private investment”, a UK Infrastructure Bank will be created which will co-invest alongside the private sector, providing “more targeted support” than the European Investment Bank. A “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” is intended to “mobilise tens of billions of pounds of private investment”, and Project Speed (set up in summer 2020) will look to review and reform the infrastructure project life cycle. PFI / PF2 will not be reintroduced, although existing models, such as Contracts for Difference, will be opened up to new areas.

 The Strategy echoes the themes emerging from our Perspectives on Infrastructure campaign, looking to address the need for more certainty and direction to encourage investment. Whilst more clarity on funding support mechanisms may be sought, the formation of a UK Infrastructure Bank and the proposals to address barriers to investment will be welcomed. It will be of great interest to see how the Strategy delivers in practice.