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Strategic Infrastructure Planning Working Group

Summary and Conclusions

Developing Strategic Approaches to Infrastructure Planning

Research Report, 23 February 2021

This report documents trends in the use of strategic planning in a range of countries and the associated establishment of independent infrastructure advisory bodies. It documents practices in the areas of project identification, appraisal and selection. It considers the appropriate scope of impact assessments, including the use of wider economic impacts and the role of ex post evaluation in contributing to better appraisals of future investments. Finally, it looks at how the effective stewardship of existing infrastructure assets can maximise their ongoing productivity.

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Successful economies need high-quality infrastructure, which has long been understood as an essential enabler of sustained economic prosperity. However, in most countries, a coherent long-term strategy for national infrastructure planning is missing. Mostly, infrastructure is planned at the sectoral level by responsible departments, over a short-term (5 to 10 year) horizon and informed by project-by-project cost-benefit assessments. In addition, many of these projects are dictated by reactions to identified urgent needs or short-term political interests, rather than by long-term comprehensive strategies. As such, these assessments do not necessarily factor in cross-sectoral interdependencies and resilience, which can create opportunities such as systemic resilience, multi-use assets, joint and passive provision.

Most countries are aware of these limitations and some have recently initiated work to develop more rounded and comprehensive strategies, by setting up specific institutions to deliver them, such as the UK National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Infrastructure Australia, and the New Zealand Infrastructure Unit. Although there are strong similarities in intentions and a need for an overall long-term strategy, there is no established approach or methodology to assess long-term infrastructure needs across sectors. There is also a question of how the existing
methodologies, in particular cost-benefit analysis, can be complemented in order to create a useful basis for project selection.

In June 2016, under the direction of the UK Ambassador to the OECD, the ITF organised a workshop on infrastructure planning on behalf of the NIC. The workshop was the first of its kind and was an initial step towards gathering evidence and sharing best practice on how countries address this issue. Participants agreed that there was a need for more work and that currently an international platform for developing robust infrastructure planning strategies is missing. 

The ITF then established a Working Group to investigate these strategic long-term planning challenges, with particular emphasis on how devising such strategic plans can benefit transport policy. This included examining how to manage risks related to the rise of new mobility services, automation and decarbonisation.

Objectives and format

The Working Group (WG) served as a two-year platform for discussion among relevant policy makers and experts to push forward the research envelope on strategic infrastructure planning and produce recommendations on how to improve governance of long-term infrastructure planning.

The appointed WG Members represented government planning agencies, transport ministries, academia, and international organisations. The ITF also selected a handful of independent experts to attend the meetings.

WG timeline:

  • December 2018: Nominations sent to ITF member countries
  • January 2019: Final List of Participants and Agenda circulated to the Working Group
  • 1st Meeting: 28 February – 1 March 2019, Paris, France: Kick-off meeting to identify work streams and responsibilities of WG members. Go to photos from the meeting
  • 2 February – May 2019: Work on identified topics towards the 2nd meeting 
  • 2nd Meeting: 25-26 June 2019, London, UK (Hosted by the NIC): Meeting to present findings and discuss preliminary recommendations
  • By the end of 2019: Work on draft report (WG members to work on their contributions)
  • 3rd Meeting: Autumn 2019: Discussion of results and implications on policy making
  • First half 2020: Circulation of recommendations
  • First half of 2020: Launch of the final report 4th Meeting

Related information

The report summarising conclusions from the June 2016 workshop:

Temporal Issues in Strategic Infrastructure Planning

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