NIC urges groundbreaking East-West devolution

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published its final report into the potential to deliver new investment in the East-West corridor running between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton and Cambridge.

According to the Partnering for Prosperity report, a major deal between Whitehall and the local authorities across the region could unlock huge potential and speed up the delivery of transport and housing projects.

Key to opening up the corridor’s potential is delivering the new East-West rail line, the NIC said, which is being considered for development using privately financed options.

As part of the devolution deal, the NIC recommends that new powers should be put in place to give the region’s councils “greater certainty over future investments, and allowing them to fund and raise finance for major infrastructure improvements that deliver new homes”.

It also recommends that the government should work with both the private sector and the relevant local authorities to agree funding packages, as well as aligning public and private interests “behind the delivery of significant East-West infrastructure and major new settlements”.

“A groundbreaking deal between ministers and local leaders could transform the area, helping to double the rate of housebuilding and deliver the first new towns this country has seen for half a century,” said NIC chair Lord Adonis.

Meanwhile, Transport for the North is on course to receive new powers from Westminster, as a bill has been laid before Parliament to turn it into the country's first sub-national transport body.