Philip Hammond has commissioned a new study into the resilience of the UK’s infrastructure.

The chancellor of the exchequer announced in yesterday’s (29 October) Budget that the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will carry out the study.

This confirmed an announcement made at Utility Week’s Congress event in Birmingham last month by chair of the NIC, Sir John Armitt.

He revealed the organisation would be carrying out a study on resilience over the next 12 months.

At the time, the NIC was still in discussion with the Treasury about the scope of the study, which Armitt described as an “advantage” as it would help bind the Treasury to what the NIC produces.

On the second day of Congress Armitt told delegates: “If we went off and did it ourselves without having the Treasury on board… it makes it easier for them to walk away from it afterwards.

“Whereas if it’s something we agree is worth doing and there are questions to be answered, we stand more chance of binding them to the recommendations.”

In his letter to the NIC chair, Hammond writes that the need for the UK to withstand future challenges like climate change was highlighted in the commission’s recently published National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).

The increasing sophisticated and interconnectedness of services, like utilities and telecommunications, has enabled efficiency improvements and better delivery, Hammond’s letter explains.

However this greater interdependence means these systems are now more vulnerable to disruption with potentially “very significant” impacts on people’s lives.

The NIC will look at how resilience can be assessed and improved, including through better design and application of new technologies.

The study will:

  • Develop an understanding of public expectations and response to the potential loss of infrastructure services;
  • Analyse the resilience of economic infrastructure systems and the costs and benefits of improvements; and
  • Undertake ’stress tests’ of sectors, areas and organisations.

The study will form the basis for how resilience is addressed in the NIC’s future NIAs.

Responding to the chancellor’s announcement, Armitt said: “The nation’s infrastructure is not only critical for our economic success and prosperity, it’s central to each of our daily lives.

“Whether it’s the roads and railways that take us to our destinations, the telecoms that connect us or the energy we use to heat our homes, we all rely on these systems running smoothly.

“Our new study will examine how we can ensure our infrastructure is fit to cope with future changes and challenges, while at the same time capitalising on the opportunities presented by an increasingly digital world.”

The government also published its response to the NIA alongside the Budget, which announced that it will be drawing up a National Infrastructure Strategy in 2019.

Hammond has also commissioned the NIC to carry out an independent study of the energy, water and telecoms regulators.