Expert opinion: National Infrastructure Commission – the opposite of regional devolution?

Dr John Disney, rail and transport expert at Nottingham Business School, gives his views on the introduction of a National Infrastructure Commission and why it may cause conflict.

The surprise announcement of a National Transport Commission (NIC) to be headed by the former Labour Transport Secretary, Lord Andrew Adonis, adds further turbulence to the transport scene.

Lord Adonis was a well-respected Transport Secretary and, along with John Prescott, is one of the few Transport Ministers of the last 20 years to be remembered for the right reasons. His "Round Britain Rail Pilgrimage" led to real action being taken to smarten up Manchester Victoria and Wakefield Kirkgate stations after he slated them for dilapidated, inadequate facilities and there were rumours that the previous Coalition Government had tried to entice him over to their benches.

His involvement is a truly positive development and a sign that the government is committed to infrastructure improvements, but it may generate some conflicts with plans for regional devolution of transport powers to those regions adopting elected Mayors and whose constituent councils are prepared to work together for the greater good.

The NIC is specifically to look at plans for High Speed Rail, including a trans-pennine line from Manchester to Leeds, but this will have a considerable impact upon other rail services between Manchester and West Yorkshire together with highway improvements, eg, the M62.

It is to be hoped that the NIC will also work with HS2 Ltd to refine proposals for High Speed Rail lines from London to Leeds and Manchester, especially with respect to the connectivity of proposed intermediate stations in the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Cheshire / Staffordshire. It is essential that these station locations are carefully selected to maximise local connections to established major cities such as Nottingham, Sheffield, Derby and Stoke-on-Trent in order for these cities to thrive and not become dormitories of an ever-growing "Greater London Conurbation".

Experts at Nottingham Business School are already looking into the effect that these stations will have upon regional economies and have been working with local business leaders and councils to ensure that the proposed East Midlands Hub station at Toton has optimum connectivity with a broad swathe of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Infrastructure is not just limited to the railways: it should encompass other transport modes including road, conventional rail, light rail, buses (including Bus Rapid Transit) and air together with telecommunications and utility services. The NTC has a challenging future and will hopefully work closely with existing bodies and get its message across loud and clear to the Government, unlike the previous Commission for Integrated Transport, whose voice was often ignored or even blatantly opposed on issues such as Concessionary Fares.

Dr John Disney
Senior Lecturer
Nottingham Business School

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Media Relations Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

    Dr John Disney has extensive experience as a consultant to the Department for Transport and Nottingham City Council on a range of transport issues; he has been cited by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, which used his categorisation of rural railways as the basis for its enquiry into their future development.

Expert opinion: National Infrastructure Commission – the opposite of regional devolution?

Published on 7 October 2015
  • Category: Press office; Nottingham Business School

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