Last month we highlighted (here) some of the key findings in the Infrastructure Progress Review (the Review) which reported on government's progress on infrastructure policy, funding and delivery. As well as reviewing past progress, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) set out what should be the government's key priorities over the next five years (and, in the case of transport infrastructure, beyond) across the various sectors covered by the Review. In this blog we focus on the transport infrastructure challenges and the recommended priorities for the transport sector. Our blog on the recommended priorities for net zero can be read here.

Importance of transport infrastructure

Inter-city trade requires good transport connections and efficient freight distribution networks. Transport networks enable cities to meet their growth potential and facilitate access to jobs in different communities. In turn, improved growth potential of urban areas benefits surrounding areas.

Enhancements to the capacity and connectivity of the transport infrastructure are the key to increased productivity across the UK and more balanced regional growth. Set against this context, most of the NIC's recommended priorities for the next five years (and beyond) - listed below - are designed to remove transport infrastructure constraints:

  • Mayoral combined authorities: the public transport networks of the mayor combined authorities (created to deliver transport policy more effectively over a wider geographic areas in England) must be both stable and reliable. To ensure this, the Review states that government should provide those combined authorities with financial support over the next two years and during that period work with them to devise funding models which are sustainable and resilient.
  • Cities: government should commit £22 billion of long-term capital funding for major transport projects in cities, prioritising funding for the cities expected to have the greatest need for increased capacity (likely Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester). To get the funding cities should have to introduce a demand management scheme (managing transport demands, for example by redistributing travel demands in space or time, as a cost-effective alternative to increasing capacity) and make a contribution (at least 15-25%) towards the total investment cost. Financing mechanisms and sources of finance should be explored with involvement from UK Infrastructure Bank.
  • Devolution of powers and funding: government should make faster progress in devolving powers and funding for local transport to local authorities. Single multi-year financial settlements should be agreed with all mayoral combined authorities, devolved five-year transport budgets should be agreed with county councils and unitary authorities with strategic transport planning responsibilities, devolved transport budgets for local authorities outside London should be available (£8 billion made up of a combination of central government grants and locally raised funds) and five-year settlements should be put in place for Transport for London, replacing the existing short-term funding arrangements.
  • Integrated interurban transport strategy: this should cover long-term strategy for road and rail network performance and resilience (particularly to climate change impacts) and a 30-year pipeline of road improvements prioritising underperforming regions. Rail capacity and connectivity difficulties in the North and Midlands, completion of East West Rail and targeted network improvements across the country should feature in a new long-term and comprehensive rail enhancement plan.
  • EV charge points: government needs to speed up its deployment of public EV charge points to meet targets and service increased numbers of EVs on the roads.
  • Decarbonisation: by 2025 government should set up a monitoring and review scheme for its transport decarbonisation plans. Government should support industry decarbonisation of road freight by 2050.


The Review was published just days before the general election was called last month. It will be interesting to see what alignment there is between the political parties' manifestos on transport matters and the NIC's key priorities.

The Review focuses on the critical role that improved transport structure will play in delivering economic growth, not just in areas with higher productivity levels, but as importantly (if not more so) in areas where economic development is to be targeted and improved. It will be of interest to those in the infrastructure sector and beyond whether any of the major political parties make this linkage as a way of addressing critical wider economic challenges.


Ben Powell

Legal Director

Lindsay Lee

Senior Associate