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Businesses concerned about infrastructure delivery rate

Words: Laura Edgar
Rail line / Shutterstock_88160386

A survey has suggested that businesses and the public are worried about the speed with which infrastructure is delivered.

The 2017 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey also suggests that companies are “dissatisfied” with the state of infrastructure in their region.

This is despite the government’s assurances that it is committed to the UK’s infrastructure, including HS2, road upgrades and transport infrastructure across the Northern Powerhouse, and building a new runway at Heathrow Airport.

Of the 727 businesses surveyed, 96 per cent consider infrastructure as important to the government’s agenda, with 55 per cent citing it as critical.

Just one-fifth of companies are satisfied with the pace of delivery while 74 per cent doubt that infrastructure will improve over this Parliament.

Businesses attribute this doubt to policy inconsistency (94 per cent) and political risk (86 per cent).

Of those surveyed in the digital sector, 59 per cent are confident of improvements.

For businesses, dissatisfaction with infrastructure in their region has increased, with 54 per cent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied – an increase of 8 per cent compared with the 2016 survey.

This year’s survey by CBI and AECOM includes the public opinion on infrastructure. The companies say the public’s opinion closely mirrors those of the businesses surveyed. Only 26 per cent of the public cite satisfaction with delivery, and 76 per cent doubt improvements will occur during this Parliament.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said: “We’ve seen a real commitment from the government on infrastructure over the last year, from decisions on Heathrow and the A303 to pledges to scale up the supply of housing and clean energy. But our survey shows this is not translating into optimism about future improvements among both firms and the public, who are united in their concern about the pace of delivery for new projects. We’ve now reached crunch time for the UK’s infrastructure.”

“As the foundation for wider growth, world-class infrastructure is fundamental in driving productivity, and helps create jobs and raise living standards. Our message is as clear as it is simple – this is no time for discussion and delays, it’s time for delivery. This needs to be heard not just by Westminster, but also by local and devolved governments, as making progress on smaller, local projects is just as important as the bigger projects. Firms will not be forgiving if this focus slips.”

As uncertainty over Brexit continues, Fairbairn said it is all the more important that the government delivers “quality” infrastructure as a key pillar of a modern and effective industrial strategy.

She added that the survey’s findings must not be confused with pessimism. “Firms are keen to work shoulder to shoulder with the government, bringing their construction and funding capability, innovation and agility to the table, enabling the UK to face the future with confidence.”

Other statistics from the survey

  • 42 per cent think devolution will lead to improvements in infrastructure, a drop from 47 per cent in 2016 and 61 per cent in 2015.
  • 62 per cent are not confident that the UK’s competitiveness will increase by 2030 owing to its infrastructure.
  • 48 per cent (digital), 43 per cent (energy), 42 per cent (aviation) see access to skills and talent from the EU as a top priority.
  • 51 per cent see new trade opportunities with non-EU countries as positive.

Richard Robinson, chief executive – civil infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at AECOM, said: “The overriding message from business and the public in this year’s survey is clear: more needs to be done to raise confidence and up the pace in which infrastructure is delivered. Now is the time to provide clarity around infrastructure investment and accelerate action.

“Transformational infrastructure necessitates bold decisions and strong vision. The next five years present a huge opportunity for the government to set in train a lasting legacy for future generations. The link between transport and long-term plans for other vital infrastructure such as energy, water, waste and housing must also be considered. A clear vision for integration will be essential to accommodate the UK’s projected population growth and maintain economic prosperity.”

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