National Infrastructure plan prioritises broadband and driverless cars

The Treasury has said that it will invest millions of pounds in broadband for hard to reach areas and also make the UK a hotspot for testing driverless cars, as part of the government’s latest National Infrastructure plan.

The plan outlines how the government will spend over £375 billion on infrastructure to support the UK up until 2030, on areas such as energy, transport, flood defence, waste, water, and communications.

“Underground, overground, on shore, offshore, wired or wireless, tarmac or train track. You name it, we’re building it right now,” said chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

“This is great news for the people of the UK because after years of neglect, the UK’s energy, road, rail, flood defence, communications and water infrastructure needs renewal.”

He added: “It will boost the UK economy creating jobs and making it easier to do business. It will also make the UK a better place to live for everyone who calls it their home.”

The Treasury said that there had been decades of underinvestment in the UK and the new infrastructure plan will allow the UK to “compete in the global race”.

As part of this, a £10 million competitive fund will be opened in early 2014 to test innovative solutions to deliver superfast broadband services to the most difficult to reach areas of the UK.

The document states that this may include enhanced mobile services, new fixed technologies and alternative approaches to structuring financial support, where the government aims to work closely with the communications industry.

Over £1 billion of public money has already been allocated to support the rollout of superfast broadband in rural areas, with BT likely to receive almost all of the funds after a number of suppliers pulled out the race.

Elsewhere, the Treasury also hopes to make the UK a “world centre” for the testing and development of driverless cars. To support this, the government will conduct a review to ensure that the legislative and regulatory framework demonstrates to the world’s car companies that the UK is the right place to do this.

The plan states: “Looking forward, driverless cars are innovative technology that will change the way the world’s towns and cities look and the way people travel; they present opportunities for the British automotive industry in the manufacture of cars and the wider science and engineering sectors in the design of towns.”

The government also plans to take forward steps to convert public sector car fleets to electric vehicles, where it will invest £5 million in a pilot during the year 2014 to 2015. It hopes that it can set an example and encourage future widespread acceptance of the ultra-low emission vehicles.

Other key projects in the infrastructure plan include a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick Airport, improvements in roads, an extension of the Northern Line to Battersea, and an agreement to support the financing of the development of a new nuclear power station in North Wales.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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