On Thursday 27 March, the London Infrastructure Summit, hosted by London First, took place at Kings Place, London. Attended by over 200 delegates from the AEC industries, the full-day conference was a platform for key figures in the infrastructure profession to discuss this year’s theme: Infrastructure fit for a world city.
The first session opened with a brief history about London First. Set up to champion Crossrail 20 years ago, the not-for-profit organisation has a strong grasp on what is happening within the capital’s built environment and its infrastructure in particular.
John Dickie from London First summarised the introductory video interviews and opened the first session What does London need from a long-term infrastructure plan? with the words ’much has been done, there is much to do…’
The 5-strong panel (full details here) were in agreement that London needs a long-term infrastructure plan and that the best way to do that, overall, is to make the procurement system faster and less arduous and that all parties involved need to work together. ’Collaboration is key,’ concluded Jason Robinson of Bechtel.
With regard to the procurement system, Andrew Ridley-Barker from Vinci Construction UK Ltd. argued that ’We need a better procurement process to enable development’ and Robinson agreed, stating that the ’procurement system values low cost, which equals high risk. If investors took on more risk, this could be a game changer’. He went on to say that ’housing…density…urban consolidation around our transport hubs…these are smart cities elements we lack’. GLA Member Val Shawcross was keen to express that there are still parts of London – including her own constituency – that do not have high speed broadband and wished to add extended and improved broadband to the wish list.
The panel were then asked what would be on their shopping list for a long-term infrastructure plan for London. The resulting inventory included Old Oak Common (HS2 Station), Nuclear Power Stations and to fix airport capacity problem. An audience question from a representative at Foster + Partners raised the point ‘Are we future-proofing our Infrastructure Plan? 2050 and beyond?’ The panel were keen to embrace that scenario but concurred that there is enough to do now so that a longer-term plan could be resolved. Ridley-Barker added that we need to invest in the skills set as Vinci Construction (amongst others) are already doing and plan to do.
The Keynote address, A neo-Victorian age – planning for London’s future growth, was delivered by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Amidst suggestions to re-colonise northern France and that Birmingham would become a London borough, Boris gave a rousing and informative speech about what London has achieved and what it can achieve, with some inevitable self-promotion ‘Since I removed the incumbent & became Mayor, life expectancy is accelerating at its fastest rate since Stone Age!’.
Boris praised the work of Transport for London for their progress so far and reducing delays by 40% on the tube and that Crossrail will boost capacity by 10%, adding that ‘We need to integrate the overground with the underground. Transport infrastructure development in London is triggering regeneration of brownfield sites.’
Boris told the summit that we must have Crossrail 2 by 2029 along with more river crossings to greater improve the connectivity within London and announced that the GLA are offering Broadband grants to aid businesses and homes.
He went on to say that ‘London needs better energy infrastructure’ and noted that ‘The Shard consumes as much energy as Colchester.’ London only generates approximately 2% of its energy used and Boris claimed that ‘brown-outs would occur if we do not take action soon’.
The image below shows the answer to the interactive voting session which asked How does London’s infrastructure compare with its competitor world cities?
After a short break (and networking), the summit continued with the question; Where is the money coming from to pay for future London infrastructure? Chaired by Richard Payne of Turner & Townsend there was a mixed response from the panel (full details here) with Pippa Malmgren from DRPM Group stating that the future market was encouraging; ‘Chinese investors are already buying property in Birmingham, manufacturing is returning to the Midlands.’
But we heard a slightly more cautious view from Deloitte’s Nick Prior, who said there is still a lot to do ‘Investors need to know they’ll get money back – must convince Government that London Infrastructure is a priority.’
Lord Andrew Adonis, Shadow Infrastructure Minister then chaired a lively panel (full details here) discussion Crossrail 2 – how do we make it a reality? Michèle Dix from Transport for London presents the High Level Programme for Crossrail 2, confirming that Boris’ earlier prediction that Crossrail 2 will be completed by 2029.
The panel (full details here) agreed that in order to help make it a reality, Crossrail 2 needs what Crossrail had, a champion, a dedicated team as Nicholas Pollard, Balfour Beatty states; ‘We need a strong leadership for Crossrail 2.’
Michèle Dix concluded by saying; ‘There are plans in place for improved links to South East London-extensions to tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) & overground.’
During this session Crossrail announced an extension to its route to Reading. Read the full press release here.
Lord Andrew Adonis, Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Farshid Kamali, Atkins, Nicholas Pollard, Balfour Beatty, Mark Carne, Network Rail, Michèle Dix, Transport for London
Bechtel’s Lawrie Quinn chaired the next panel discussion (full details here) which looked at the statement Energy and Transport projects as an urban catalyst to sustain economic success and regeneration. Beth West, Commercial Director of HS2, said that they were already in the process of identifying the benefits that the HS2 would bring; ‘We have a team looking at regeneration development around HS2, trying to quantify the benefits’
Reflecting on the previous discussion, Richard Abel from Macquarie Group implied that the confidence in funding is not quite there yet; ‘New infrastructure projects depend on social consent and predictable investment framework’ with Beth West agreeing; ‘Having patient money is one of the biggest challenges’ and added that ‘HS2 will be a ‘release valve’ for businesses to set up in different cities rather than ‘flooding into London’.
Lawrie Quinn, Bechtel, Richard Abel, Macquarie Group, Beth West, HS2, Jason Robinson, Bechtel