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National Infrastructure Plan: government to sell Eurostar stake and finance new nuclear plant



The details of the UK government’s National Infrastructure Plan are to be announced on Wednesday, setting out around £375 billion of public and private investment across the energy, transport, communications, accommodation and water sectors.

The planned investment represents a £66 billion increase from the £309 billion revealed last year.

This increase has been partly facilitated by the insurance industry, which is contributing investment of around £25 billion over the next five years. Major insurers including Aviva, Prudential and Legal & General will be taking part. 

Otto Thoresen, director-general of the Association of British Insurers, said that the move “will help drive a competitive, healthy and resilient UK economy.”

The government also aims to raise £20 billion from the sale of assets to enable further spending. This will include its 40% stake in the Eurostar rail service, despite experts warning that the government might not get a good deal, as the company is still growing.

Transport commentator Christian Woolmar told the BBC, “The price is going to be lower than if it waited a few years when the new businesses are well-established and seem to be profitable.”

The infrastructure projects include road redevelopments, flood defences and a redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick airport. 

Also announced is a government guarantee to support finance for a new nuclear power station, to be built by Hitachi and Horizon in north Wales, following on from the controversial confirmed development of Hinkley Point C.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, will unveil the plan on Wednesday, alongside commercial secretary Lord Deighton. Alexander is expected to say, “Underground, overground, onshore, offshore, wired or wireless, tarmac or train track. You name it, we’re building it right now. This is great news for the people of the UK.”

On Tuesday, a report by the Financial Times argued that the government has so far failed to meet its infrastructure spending promises. It claimed that of 40 “priority” projects set in 2011 – covering roads, energy and telecoms – only a handful have been completed. 

Listed among the failing projects are the development of carbon capture and storage technology for coal-fired power plants and new gas power stations.

However, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Alexander described the Financial Times’ analysis as “total nonsense.” Two hundred and ninety-one of the 646 projects and programmes that will be supported are already under construction, he claimed.

Alexander added, “The most important thing we’ve done as a government is create an environment in which people want to come in and invest in British infrastructure.”

Further reading:

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Government reveals £100bn of infrastructure investment – but no new investment

We need long-term infrastructure investment to drive growth, says trade body