The UK faces a tainted future of gridlock on the roads, railways and in the skies, as well as slower broadband and worse air quality, according to the man who advises the Government on infrastructure projects.
Lord Adonis, chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, says that “for years, funding has been squeezed, policy decisions have been erratic and the network is showing signs of age and strain”.
The commission will publish details on Friday of its draft report into the UK’s infrastructure plans.
The report will lay out the commission’s views on what should be the UK’s priorities for infrastructure planning between now and 2050.
Image: The delay in expanding Heathrow is described as the most serious failing
It will say that the country needs to address the problems of three Cs – congestion, capacity and carbon.
“Congestion is the single biggest problem facing Britain at the moment,” Lord Adonis said in an interview with Sky News.
“Our roads, our railways, our digital systems, our mobile phone systems, they’re all congested and we need to have congestion-busting measures so people can go about their jobs, go about their lives without constantly being disrupted by infrastructure that doesn’t work.
“If we don’t tackle that congestion, then this country will seize up, and it seizes up then there will be fewer jobs, we’ll all be a lot poorer and no one will thank the politicians of this generation.”
The report has identified the “most serious infrastructure failing of all” as the “endless delay to a Parliamentary decision” over building a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
“There is no space for new flights at Heathrow, which means no space to make fresh connections to important new markets, so the commission says ‘get on with It’,” said Adonis.
“Heathrow is our most important port and it is effectively closed to new markets.
“We’ve spent 13 years talking about a new runway – it’s now time to get on with it and open by the mid 2020s.”
Image: Rail passengers are also affected by congestion
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Heathrow, told Sky News that the airport had “learnt lessons” from its history of lobbying for a third runway.
“In the past we were guilty of overlooking issues such as local communities and environmental impact, and instead concentrating on the economic case. Now we’ve changed our approach.
“It’s great that people like the infrastructure commission are now saying ‘get on with it’, and asking the Government why they haven’t done this.
“That pull-through will help to make sure that, this time, it gets delivered.”
As well as Lord Adonis, the commission includes a number of prominent businessmen, economists and infrastructure specialist.
The deputy chair is Sir John Armitt, former chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
The commission’s report will say that the huge costs of some infrastructure projects are worth paying because of the economic rewards they generate in return.
As well as investment to upgrade the existing transport infrastructure, its most prominent demands will be to call for huge investment in a 5G mobile phone network and also a national “smart charging” system for electric cars.
At the moment, there are fears that a dramatic uptake in the use of electric vehicles could overburden the national grid.
Other suggestions will be for more house building, improved flood protection, better heating for homes and inner-city public transport.