National Infrastructure Commission: Securing Britain’s Future

We are working with the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to provide government with insight into the infrastructure needs of the future. The NIC has been tasked with providing expert, impartial advice on long-term infrastructure challenges, and relies on our innovative modelling tools for simulation and analysis. It is expected to perform assessments of the UK’s infrastructure every Parliament or every 5 years.

We, the ITRC,  provided a core analytical framework for their first National Infrastructure Assessment. Using the National Infrastructure Model (NISMOD), our researchers are modelling the shifting demands for infrastructure services such as transport, water and energy against future changes across the UK. Likely scenarios, as well as alternatives, are tested and developed to provide estimates of where infrastructure services need to be expanded or new investments made. Analysis from the NISMOD provides the NIC and UK government with vital information on Britain’s infrastructure needs and priorities.

Some of the areas we are working on in collaboration with the NIC are population and employment growth, emerging technologies, water supply management and costings assessment on digital communications and 5G in the UK

There are also 2 main assessments with UK Infrastructure, a predecessor for the NIC at the UK’s HM Treasury –  we  mapped out the vulnerability hotspots in the UK’s infrastructure interdependent networks and analysed the UK’s infrastructure ‘pipeline’ of future projects, estimated at ~£500 billion over the next couple of decades.

National Infrastructure Assessment

In July 2018, the NIC release the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), backed by our research and analysis.

The NIA calls for a more joined up view of infrastructure, with significant investments to tackle road congestion, deal with water shortages and provide secure low-carbon energy supplies. The NIA proposes ways of promoting greater innovation, for example through the roll-out of 5G mobile services and the uptake of autonomous vehicles as well as reaching a 50% share of renewable energy sources by 2030.

The NIA was underpinned by advanced modelling and analysis of scenarios of the future. This adopted methodology proposed by the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium, a consortium of seven of the UK’s leading universities, led from the University of Oxford. The ITRC has developed the UK’s first National Infrastructure Model (NISMOD) which was used by the National Infrastructure Commission to conduct the National Infrastructure Assessment.

NISMOD was used to model the changing demand for infrastructure services, including transport,  energy and water.  Our researchers developed a baseline projection, as well as alternative scenarios, for population and employment growth in UK cities and undertook sensitivity testing for different outcomes for transport and housing infrastructure. A key finding in the Assessment, reflected in the modelling, is that transport networks are close to capacity in many UK cities already.

Exploring options for the provision of a secure water supplies in the face of growing water use and uncertain climate changes was also an important area of work. Our analysis demonstrated that a secure water supply can be provided for Britain’s future, as long as action is taken to reduce leakages, manage demand, and invest in strategic water supply infrastructure such as pipes and canals.

Prof Jim Hall, who leads the UK Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium, said: “We are very pleased to see the models that we have developed being taken up by the National Infrastructure Commission to conduct the National Infrastructure Assessment. NISMOD has taken us several years to develop, but it now provides a unique capability to simulate Britain’s national infrastructure in the future and to inform the difficult choices that the National Infrastructure Commission is having to make.”