National Infrastructure Commission chair John Armitt says ripping up plans amid crisis over rising bills will increase costs in future

The government’s chief infrastructure advisor has told ministers to stop chopping and changing their plans for major long term projects including rail upgrades and insulation for homes.

John Armitt said that resisting “too many shifts of gear” would provide certainty to industry operators, supply chains and the public amid a rapidly worsening cost of living crisis.

He made the comments yesterday evening in a speech at the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster to the all party parliamentary group for infrastructure, a month ahead of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spring forecast statement.

John Armitt

John Armitt told ministers to stop ‘shifting gear’ on major long term infrastructure projects

Last year the government scrapped HS2’s £40bn eastern leg from the West Midlands to Leeds and significantly downgraded the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail link.

The heat and buildings strategy, published in October, also failed to provide any detail on a national retrofit programme to install energy-saving improvements to the UK’s 28 million homes.

The decarbonisation of buildings is seen as a crucial element of the government’s plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Armitt, who is the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, told MPs that “ripping up” plans because of concerns over the rising cost of living could end up increasing overall costs in future.

He said: “The challenge is how to keep pace with investing for the future, while bringing the public – taxpayers and bill payers – with us on the journey. 

“The transition to net zero must be fair if it is going to be accepted by the public.

“Ducking this challenge now will delay the outcomes that people want to see; and in many instances, increase overall costs.”

He added that ministers need to be “open and honest” with the public about the costs of the “big shifts” needed in infrastructure, and also about the costs of inaction.

He said: “Resisting too many shifts of gear lends certainty to operators, supply chains – and the public. And it crucially helps crowd in private investment.

“So my call to the chancellor and fellow ministers is perhaps an unusual one: stick with the plan you’ve set out and let’s get on with policy design and with delivery.”

Sunak’s spring statement, expected on 23 March, will be published against a backdrop of skyrocketing energy bills, rising inflation and tax hikes.

He will likely reveal the latest figures for inflation, which have already hit a 30-year high of 5.5% and are set to top 7% in the next few months.