- NIC reviews the impact of Covid-19 behavioural change on infrastructure use
- Australia increases infrastructure investment but worries around capacity to deliver
In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.
UK Commission publishes assessment of how Covid-19 will impact infrastructure use
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a new assessment of how behaviour change brought by Covid-19 will impact infrastructure networks as part of its prep work ahead of the second National Infrastructure Assessment.
The NIC’s findings are that it's too early to assume that Covid-19 behaviour change will lead to completely different patterns of infrastructure use, even if these changes remain in place. The commission recommends using realistic scenarios and planning responses to the range of possibilities these scenarios present to manage uncertainty. They also suggest a more ‘adaptive’ approach to longer-term project commitments and using data to understand how changes are unfolding.
In analysing sectors, the commission expects digital, energy, waste and water to have a narrow band of scenarios, while transport (particularly public transport) has a broader range of potential outcomes from behaviour change with the report noting:
“Public transport is disproportionally impacted because the size and physical nature of the network, as well as user pricing (i.e. fares), are geared towards peak rather than average demand.”
Other notable findings include:
- The potential impacts of behaviour change on infrastructure demand are likely to be less significant than changes from other trends over the past 30 years, such as the doubling of rail journeys over that period.
- Higher uptake of homeworking would also affect private transport (even if the greatest impact is on public transport), this is because overall most commuters use a car.
- Permanent uptake of homeworking could make a difference to where people live and work towards suburban and rural areas.
2021 Australian Federal Budget highlights the challenge of getting projects delivered
Like other countries (we’ve looked at plans in the US, South Africa and India), infrastructure investment featured in the 2021 Australian Federal Budget to boost the economy as part of the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 15.2bn Australian dollars (AUD) over 10 years was announced for new road and rail projects, which would take the total investment for infrastructure to 110bn AUD over the same period.
The new funding would help advance 15 early-stage investment opportunities from the 2021 Infrastructure Priority List produced by Infrastructure Australia, which was developed with Covid-19 recovery in mind.
However, despite the ambition, the Budget was challenged by other political parties who highlighted the challenge of underspending with analysis showing despite the 15.2bn AUD commitment to projects, the infrastructure budget has increased by only 10bn AUD.
As countries ramp up their investment spend, they will all come up against the capacity to deliver. Investment pipelines take time to come to fruition, and there's a lot that needs to be done through infrastructure investment to develop economies, decarbonise and support sustainable growth.
In case you missed it...
- How investing in infrastructure can build a better quality of life – ICE’s Wales/Cymru Director provides the highlights from ICE’s manifesto from ICE’s manifesto for the recent Welsh Parliament /Senedd Cymru elections.
- Dave Darnell, chair of the ICE South East England Transport Panel, shares his thoughts on the Transport for the South East and England Economic Heartland’s transport strategies.
- The 2021 Queen’s Speech outlined the UK government's legislative programme for the next session of Parliament, this blog provides an overview of what was announced.
Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.