The Institution of Civil Engineers has called on the government to appoint a chief engineering adviser to oversee the national infrastructure.
Director-general of the ICE Tom Foulkes said the appointment was needed to overcome the "stop-start, short-term fixes" of recent years.

He said that the person should be like a modern-day Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was well-known and respected. He said: "They'd have experience of running major engineering projects at the highest level and working closely with national and regional government."

He said the person would be the government's principal adviser on the built environment, transport infrastructure, energy, and flooding and water and waste management. Their role would parallel that of the chief scientific officer and the chief medical officer.

He said: "These are non-political appointments selected by a panel of civil servants who look at long-term strategy and speak with authority."

The call came as the ICE unveiled its state of the nation report for 2003, which predicted a potential 80% shortfall in meeting energy demands by 2020. The ICE also awarded the government a "D-plus grade" for its performance in maintaining the UK infrastructure.

Foulkes said that the National Grid had not had any serious investment since the 1970s and much of the drainage system dated back to the 19th century.

He said: "In a growing economy, you have to anticipate what's going to happen next."