Alex Burrows - Head of Transport and Infrastructure

The UK’s Top 40 Infrastructure Projects

Boosting the nation’s infrastructure is a key part of the Government’s growth strategy. In its National Infrastructure Plan, released in November 2011, HM Treasury identified the 40 infrastructure projects deemed to be top priority.  However, have these lofty ambitions been realised? Alex Burrows, Head of Transport and Infrastructure at Insight Public Affairs, investigates.   

Whilst the Government avoided the political nightmare of a triple dip recession this was in spite of, not because of, the construction sector.  In the first three months of 2013 construction output fell by 2.5%, and critics have again rounded on the Government’s early decision to slash capital spending typically spent on financing infrastructure projects.  In response to these criticisms, the Government points to its National Infrastructure Plan which has identified a top 40 of projects prioritised for funding.  But have these grand plans been delivered?  Will economic growth be delivered on the back of improved infrastructure in the UK or will the Government miss its targets?

Of the 40 pledges in the national infrastructure plan, the Coalition has delivered 13 of the projects, 20 are in progress and seven have not yet been started.   This suggests that the Government has made good progress in this area, however several projects are significantly behind schedule.  We have seen the flagship scheme – High Speed 2 – seemingly get bogged down in a political dogfight across the Chilterns.  However, the reality on High Speed 2 is that this is a project that has already seen a vast amount of work undertaken.  If we look at the infrastructure sector we can see a real determination to deliver and a desire to see the Government commit to a pipeline of projects.  This would bring certainty to the sector to make long term plans and to invest in creating new jobs and a better-skilled workforce in order to deliver these projects.

Investing in our national infrastructure provides clear short and long term benefits to the economy.  Building new transport, energy or communications infrastructure or improving and enhancing our existing infrastructure creates jobs straight away; in the long term it keeps Britain competitive – against other economies who are investing and expanding rapidly.  These top 40 projects are the tip of the iceberg; the Government urgently needs to focus its mind now on ensuring more effective delivery or it will find that we are shunted into the sidings.

Highways Agency programme in construction – pre-2010 Spending Review

green_trafficGreen: Seven of eight schemes complete as of March 2012, with the eighth on track to be completed in spring 2013.

Highways Agency trunk road improvements programme – 2010 Spending Review projects

amberAmber: Both schemes under way.

Alternative approaches to resolving issues along the A14 corridor

redtrafficRed: Financing options still to be developed. Project delayed until the Government announces its Roads Strategy (expected June 2013). Delay has been put down to Government indecision over whether to introduce road tolling or not.

Mersey Gateway Bridge

amberAmber: In progress with final approval expected autumn 2013.

Local authority major transport schemes – development pool projects

amberAmber: 20 schemes under construction with more schemes expected to be announced in the next few months.


amberAmber: Works in progress, although the contract for the new fleet of rolling stock is still to be signed.

East Coast Main Line

green_trafficGreen: Works under way, all due to be complete by mid 2014.

Kings Cross Station improvements

green_trafficGreen: Considerable work done and completion anticipated late 2013.

High Speed Two


Amber: Phase 1 Hybrid Bill included in the Queen’s Speech and expected to be laid before Parliament in December 2013.  High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill has already started its journey through the legislative process in Parliament.

Intercity Express Programme

green_trafficGreen: The project is now on schedule for delivery during the next Control Period (in tandem with Great Western electrification and East Coast enhancements).

Northern Line Extension to Battersea

amberAmber: The project is developing, although the caveats remain of ensuring the funding is there which requires the demand (the new US Embassy and Battersea Power Station), and we remain firmly of the opinion that the extension should continue to Clapham Junction.

Heathrow capital investment programme

green_trafficGreen: Project on schedule for completion in 2013.

Ports – renewable energy projects

amberAmber: Planning applications at Hull approved while the application at Able is under final consideration with the DfT.

Regional Growth Fund (RGF)

redtrafficRed: Again, questionable effectiveness, especially in terms of distributing the fund in time and to the most valuable schemes; we wonder whether the RGF was used to plug a gap in political expediency rather than being pinpointed on delivering new jobs quickly.

Electricity generation – new nuclear investment

amberAmber: The Hinkley Point saga looks like it is finally being sorted out with the Government giving planning permission for EDF to construct a new plant.  However has this damaged future confidence?

Electricity generation – Gas investment (CCGT)

green_trafficGreen: Gas Generation Strategy published in late 2012

Electricity generation – wind energy investment

amberAmber: Coalition can point to significant progress in developing wind energy as a source, but a number of politicians across the country are fighting against wind farms making it a political battleground that will no doubt be revisited time and again.

Smart meters

green_trafficGreen: The timetable for rollout is set out, awarding of licences and providers is due shortly.

Rural mobile coverage (Mobile Infrastructure Project)

redtrafficRed: Contractor yet to be appointment although the Government expects rapid rollout with the aim for completion by 2015.

Urban broadband fund – Super connected cities

amberAmber: In addition to the ten cities announced at Wave 1, a further twelve have been selected for Wave 2. The £150 million programme is expected to be finished by summer 2013.

Flood and coastal erosion risk management programme (including Thames Estuary 2100)

amberAmber: Programme is developing and delivering; the onus is on the Environment Agency, which appears to be up to the task.

Highways Agency managed motorways programme – Spending Review projects

amberAmber: In progress. One project completed while three others are underway.

Highways Agency – Autumn Statement 2011/2012 package

amberAmber: All three schemes in progress.

New Lower Thames crossing

redtrafficRed: Construction not expected to begin until 2013-14.

Local transport projects – funded at or before Spending Review 2010

green_trafficGreen: Nineteen schemes complete, and eight under way.


green_trafficGreen: Construction well under way, NB funding for fit-out of Woolwich station still to be confirmed however.

Rail infrastructure and rolling stock enhancement

amberAmber: Control Period 5 spending to be agreed soon; high expectation for continuing major investment in new rolling stock across the network; a number of schemes stuck in development without possibility of funding until control period 6 or beyond.

Rail electrification programme(including Great Western Electrification)

redtrafficRed: Several schemes announced, but no detailed project plan to date.

Reading upgrade programme

green_trafficGreen: Major milestone achieved over Easter 2013 with blockade allowing for huge progress; scheduled to open 2015.

Northern rail connectivity (Liverpool-Newcastle including Northern Hub)

green_trafficGreen: Works have commenced on this vital package of schemes.

London Underground investment programme

green_trafficGreen: Victoria Line upgrade a testament to this (as a number of Insight staff can vouch for).

Gatwick capital investment programme

amberAmber: Two thirds of the way through the £1.26 billion capital investment programme, although over 200 projects either in progress or planned.

Ports – container terminal projects

amberAmber: London Gateway is progressing well; however progress not as fast with Southampton and Liverpool 2.

Growing Places Fund

redtrafficRed: Questions remain as to whether GPF has been used as effectively as it might have been and whether the Fund could have been more effective if focussed on projects ready for delivery and with biggest ‘bang for buck’.

Carbon Capture and Storage investment

amberAmber: The 2013 Budget brought the announcement of two preferred bidders to go to the next stage of development; positive progress, but again perhaps a sign of the Coalition hedging its bets on future energy production policy?

Electricity generation – Biomass investment

amberAmber: Significant amount of work being undertaken to support development of biomass as energy source; but again, doubts remain as to long term vote of confidence from Government in this source of energy as a major part of the mix.

Electricity and gas transmission and distribution investment

green_trafficGreen: Continuing as per schedule.

4G mobile auction and rollout

amberAmber: Five licences have been awarded, but they did not bring in the amount expected by the Treasury. Auction being investigated by the NAO.

Fixed broadband investment – private and public

green_trafficGreen: All project contracts expected to be in place by the end of summer 2013.

Thames Tideway Tunnel

amberAmber: Project is in progress, but has been the subject of local media and political battles; we anticipate it being delivered but query whether it may get bogged down in local battles as construction draws closer.