Survey: When asked to pick one or two, if any, of the below sectors as the main priorities for infrastructure spending the public chose:
Interdependencies between sectors
While separate Infrastructure sectors each have specific challenges, they should not be viewed in isolation. The different sectors have always been reliant on each other to some extent, and as the nation’s infrastructure continues to evolve and adapt the increasing importance of digital technology, connectivity and whole system approaches will serve to deepen these interdependencies.
Some interdependencies have existed for centuries and are well accounted for. Delivery of most projects requires transport infrastructure to transport material and labour; it is therefore no surprise that early railways, such as the mainline Manchester to Leeds railway, run alongside the Rochdale canal.
Others are emergent.
The electrification of road vehicles and, eventually, connected and autonomous vehicles will demand new connective infrastructure requiring greater amounts of energy for both the vehicles and smart tolls, traffic monitoring and live internet connectivity. This technology is with us today, with the Transport Research Laboratory conducting a ‘lorry platooning’ trial in Kent, allowing lorries to travel more efficiently, with increased traffic flow and safety, using communicative technology. Delivering this will require road planners, the automotive industry, the energy sector and telecommunications to work together, find new synergies and consider how cross-sector approaches to investment can support this transport revolution.
Waste facilities and factories are already finding ways to use their runoff through biogas to serve local residential and business heating needs. It is also necessary to continue finding innovative solutions for how assets can have multiple uses in our communities.
Covering a reservoir with floating solar panels provides a large surface area which can be used to generate renewable energy while also reducing the evaporation rates of the stored water, improving water resilience.
Intelligent understanding and exploitation of interdependencies can deliver financial and operating cost benefits which greatly outweigh the marginal extra cost of exploration of this theme. Critical thinking in this area could also increase revenue resilience through multiple use and reduce the overall demand impact on other sectors.
More efficient demand management of water will, for instance, have a significant impact on the demand for wastewater disposal and treatment. It is vital that both industry and government seek measures to identify and exploit these where possible.