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Infrastructure commission to identify first priority projects before 2016 Budget

The George Osborne-backed National Infrastructure Commission will issue its first report before next year’s Budget.

Launching the eight-member commission at the National Rail Museum in York on Friday, chair Lord Adonis revealed that it would report on its first suite of priority projects next spring.

The focus of the commission is initially expected to be on transport connectivity in the North of England; upgrading the London transport network, including kick-starting Crossrail 2; and creating a better energy balance.

Commission members include former Olympic Delivery Authority chair Sir John Armitt, former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, and High Speed 2 design panel chair Sadie Morgan.

Although the commission will have no power over delivering infrastructure projects, Mr Osborne said it will “hold the government’s feet to the fire”.

He added that the government would not dictate which projects or sectors the commission should focus on.

Speaking at the launch, he said: “I do not want to create a commission with these brilliant people and tell them how to do their jobs.”

Mr Osborne announced that the government would pledge £100bn to infrastructure projects over the next five years, but speaking today he said the commission should also look into how to leverage private finance to support projects.

“We should not assume that all the things we are talking about here should be financed out of the national budget,” he said, adding that energy projects in particular should look to use private money.

Speaking to Construction News at the launch, Sir John Armitt said he hoped the commission would be able to take major infrastructure planning out of the party political sphere.

“Our failures in the past have been because we would wait for the change of parliament every five years.”

Writing in Construction News, Pinsent Masons infrastructure head Richard Laudy welcomed Sir John’s inclusion on the commission, but said many in the industry would want to see “shovels in the ground” before being convinced of the new body’s worth.

He said: “The harsh reality is our political system does not lend itself to long-term decisions on infrastructure because of the politically unpopular nature of many of them.”

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