The UK’s new infrastructure commissioners

Last month we reported that the planning, building and funding of UK infrastructure was a major theme of this year’s Labour and Conservative party conferences. Here we look in more detail at who the commissioners are and what they will be expected to do.

In Manchester, headlines were made when George Osborne announced the creation of a new National Infrastructure Commission, headed by the former Labour minister Andrew Adonis. At the end of October, Adonis’ commission was launched and we found out the commissioners who will be tasked with the job of making sure the planning and execution of vital national strategic infrastructure does not suffer from the inherent short-termism of the parliamentary cycle.

 Lord Adonis is joined by seven others who will provide expert, long-term and unbiased analysis of the infrastructure needs facing the UK. They will recommend which projects should be government priorities and will hold ministers to account if they fail to deliver.

 The implementation of a new independent ‘guiding mind’ for infrastructure was a Labour general election policy. The Official Opposition may therefore be pleased that the government has taken up their idea. Labour will, however, be less pleased that Mr Osborne has poached one of their own as the Commission’s new chair, and Sir John Armitt, who the party hired to carry out a review of national infrastructure policy, as one of its first commissioners.

 The Commission has started work already, and will be underpinned with a statutory status at a later date. At the beginning of each parliament it will be expected to provide an unbiased, long-term assessment of the country’s current infrastructure needs and how these can be addressed. It will also have the ability to commission research and call for evidence from public and private sector bodies.

 The chancellor has tasked Adonis et al to look first at three issues in particular: transport infrastructure for the north of England; transport in London; and how to better balance energy demand and supply ‘future-proof’ energy infrastructure. The commissioners will be publishing their advice on these issues before the Budget 2016.

 1. Future investment in the north’s transport infrastructure

First the Commission will work with the Department for Transport, Transport for the North and its member authorities to identify options for future investment in transport infrastructure in the North over the next 20 to 30 years. A particular emphasis will be on improving connectivity between cities and the east-west trans-Pennine axis.

 Second, the commissioners will advise the government before the next budget on its view of the future investment priorities in this area.

 2. London’s transport infrastructure

First the Commission will review the evidence base and the spread of options for future investment in major transport schemes in London over the next two to three decades, including Crossrail 2. It will then give its recommendations to the government. The question of airport capacity will not be part of the Commission’s remit.

 3. Delivering future-proof energy infrastructure

Here, the Commission has been asked to propose solutions to the following issues which look ahead to 2030 and 2050: whether the UK grid is currently operating in a way which fully considers the range of options for balancing supply and demand. If not, its recommendations will be made on what changes are required and whether there are grounds for granting the grid operator more independence; what barriers exist to developing sufficient energy storage capacity; and what level of future electricity interconnection will be in consumers’ interests.


Lord Andrew Adonis
George Osborne gained considerable political capital over his appointment of Lord Adonis as chair, who chose to resign the Labour whip in the House of Lords, and now sits as a cross-bench peer.  A transport enthusiast, Lord Adonis is considered to have been one of the central political advocates for bringing high speed rail to the UK.

Sir John Armitt
As chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Mr Armitt was responsible for coordinating and creating the infrastructure required to host the London 2012 Olympic Games. He is a member of the Airports Commission, a similar body to the National Infrastructure Commission which was set up to provide independent recommendations to the government on airport infrastructure across the UK.

Professor Timothy Besley
A former Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member, Mr Besley has held a number of influential posts and currently chairs the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

Demis Hassabis
Hassabis co-founded DeepMind Technology in 2011, a business focusing on the development of artificial intelligence through attempting to reverse-engineer key principles of neuroscience into complex and organic algorithms. DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 and Hassabis now sits as Google’s vice president of engineering.

Rt Hon Lord Michael Heseltine
An established political statesman, Mr Heseltine has served in various Conservative administrations including as shadow secretary of state for industry and president of the Board of Trade.  In 2012 he wrote “No stone unturned”, commissioned by the coalition government, which investigated ways to stimulate economic growth outside of London and decentralise public spending. His recommendations included empowering Local Enterprise Partnerships with further funding and the creation of a Regional Growth Fund.

Sadie Morgan
Appointed as HS2 Design Panel Chair in March, Sadie Morgan is the co-founding director of dRMM Architects and was shortlisted for the AJ Woman Architect of the Year award in 2014. Her role as design chair panel for HS2 Ltd involves ensuring the infrastructure’s construction is seamlessly integrated and sympathetic to landscapes.

Bridget Rosewell
Bridget Rosewell is a leading economist with experience in advising clients on issues such as infrastructure, public services and local finance. She founded and remains a senior partner of Volterra Partners which provides economic consultancy in sectors including transport, planning and regional development.

Sir Paul Ruddock
Sir Paul is the founder and former CEO of hedge fund Lansdowne Partners. In 2012, the fund boasted $14bn worth of assets and focused its investments on long-term infrastructure opportunities, Sir Paul is also chairman of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.


Find out more about the National Infrastructure Commission and their work at Waterfront Conference Company’s event on the 24th February, see details here.

Freshwater’s public affairs team offers a political and media monitoring service which collates the latest transport and infrastructure updates and sends them to your inbox every weekday. Register now.


Contact us

0800 111

Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017