The Infrastructure Express

Media, politicians and business leaders were in attendance at the National Railway Museum in York for the launch of the new National Infrastructure Commission, and Propaganda were on hand to capture the mood.

The venue was no accident, with the Chancellor, George Osborne making immediate comparisons between the Victorian pioneers of industry and our modern day infrastructure needs and desire to ‘rediscover our ambition’. Flanked by Labour Peer Lord Adonis, who will chair the commission, Lord Heseltine, a political heavyweight, and renowned architect Sadie Morgan, Osborne set out his priorities for consensus across parties, industry and regions.

Interestingly, there will be a big focus on design. Sadie Morgan’s prominent involvement is intended as a statement of intent to think more creatively about infrastructure. It’s not all about tarmac, steel, concrete and fuel. Indeed, she opened her speech by commenting ‘the value of design cannot be underestimated’. This has to be welcomed, as creative solutions to complex problems are often the way forward. The Commission’s immediate focus, in priority order, will be Northern connectivity East-West; London’s infrastructure; and energy security and transmission.

The news was well received by the audience, if with some typical and healthy Yorkshire scepticism. The media seemed a bit off-kilter with their questioning, having their attempts easily batted away by the panel, but some excellent and searching questions were tabled from the floor. Osborne talked, as would be expected, about the Northern Powerhouse, and how this presents an opportunity for the region.

It was an engaging session, which looked to unite consensus on infrastructure in an apolitical way, and the results will be eagerly anticipated by the business community at large. Thanks should go to The Yorkshire Mafia for the invite, who once again have delivered an nationally significant event in our region.