Article | July 12, 2021
Major infrastructure interventions come with significant uncertainty – this is something explored before before. Provision of high quality infrastructure is a challenge faced by every government around the world, and there are many uncertainties around the planning and funding of these schemes that have to be weighed up and balanced.
The Enabling Better Infrastructure (EBI) programme encapsulated best practice principles from around the world. We have dipped into this best practice toolkit to underpin our review of the UK’s strategic infrastructure planning system led by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the results of which we have published today.
Article | July 20, 2021
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has recently launched an operational review of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime. This regime, established in 2008, was put in place to bypass local planning approval for projects that had a predominately national rather than a local impact.
Over the last few years, the regime has taken a significant battering with ‘development consent’ (the granting of planning approval) for major infrastructure programmes being brought before court due to the corresponding National Policy Statement (used to determine if a project is in line with government ambition) being out of date with latest government policy. The most notable example being a third runway at Heathrow. This highlights that something is wrong with turning strategic policy intent into decisions on granting development consent.
Article | April 20, 2020
Engineering technology is evolving at a rapid pace across the world. Companies are depending on newer technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, and automation. The new-age curriculum has transformed the way engineering education is delivered in the classroom. Here are futuristic modules that engineering education needs to include in the curriculum. The manufacturing facilities available today have formed a fully integrated production system powered by digital technologies.
Article | August 4, 2021
In amongst the chatter about how we can 'do' infrastructure better, there's now a growing consensus that we need to improve the way we design our interventions - 'design' in the broader sense of the word, rather than the narrow sense we tend to use as engineers.
My front-end principles for better infrastructure
Over the course of my career, the following front-end principles have served well to ensure we think through, before we rush in where angels fear to tread.
Be clear about the purpose and the expected outcomes, and engage communities in decision-making through an effective communication strategy.
Prioritise the user, aiming to offer services that are modern, effective and affordable.
Seek to improve people's quality of life and support the transition to a more sustainable future, while also facilitating the functioning of the economy, enhancing productivity and accommodating growth (to the extent possible, given other competing objectives).
Extract greatest value from existing infrastructure through timely maintenance, repurposing, renewal and upgrading. Seek to remove constraints and bottlenecks.
Aim to make best use of data, automation, innovation and technology (including for future asset management), recognising the complexity and risks this may introduce.
Recognise, analyse, mitigate and manage technical, environmental and climate risks, and complete any surveys necessary to support this.
Improve governance, with robust, timely and transparent decision-making, supported by strong evidence-based planning, clear prioritisation, and best practice technical design and delivery.
Seek an appropriate funding balance between 'user pays' and general taxation which incentivises behaviours in the best long-term social, economic and environmental interests.
Complete well-evidenced business cases and risk assessments of proposed initiatives before embarking on projects, including financing proposals. Aim to allocate the risks identified to those best able to carry them.
Facilitate collaboration between the government and business to promote delivery of the broader social, economic and environmental benefits.
Clearly, there are many other issues to consider as a project develops, and the above principles may seem obvious to some, and a counsel of perfection to others, but it's surprising how many are overlooked in the rush to build.