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Clear joined-up approach needed for national and regional infrastructure, report says

Words: Laura Edgar
Joined-up approach required for national and regional infrastructure / iStock-476099050-2

A report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the government to establish an inter-departmental group that includes all departments with responsibilities for infrastructure so policy, planning and delivery is better coordinated.

The representative for British businesses' new report Driving Delivery: Turning Plans into Action on Regional Infrastructure explains that with infrastructure at the heart of local industrial strategies, there must be clear coordination of how these feed into the national industrial strategy.

CBI recognises the government’s “strong will” to improve infrastructure in England, citing HS2, Crossrail and the third runway at Heathrow Airport as examples, while sub-national bodies, such as Transport for the North, have been established.

The report though, which is the result of discussions with businesses and transport organisations, lays out concerns about the complexity of decision-making and the lack of transparency regarding how investment decisions are made, as well the impact this is having on improving connectivity.

Having the right infrastructure in place connects people to jobs, raising productivity, which is what the government is aiming to do with its industrial strategy.

If England, and the wider UK, is to improve its productivity, transport links between cities outside of London need to be better. It highlights that it is quicker to get from London to Paris than it is to get from Liverpool to Hull.

“Improving connections between cities therefore presents a particularly compelling opportunity to lift productivity. As an example, reducing travel times between cities in the North of England, via the best mode of transport, could provide access to a working population matching that of London today,” the report states.

The report makes a number of recommendations to address connectivity and productivity issues, including:

  • Ensure a joined-up approach at a national and regional level.
  • Clearly reflect the wider economic benefits of transport investment in central government decision-making.
  • National and local decision-makers must ensure that all regions are represented by a sub-national transport body, including in the South West and East of England. The role of sub-national transport bodies in all strategic decision-making should be formalised.
  • Create a level playing field to deliver transport improvements across all regions.
  • Ensure sustainable, consolidated and long-term funding for local transport.

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at CBI, said England’s infrastructure is “a patchwork quilt”.

“Firms have identified the most important projects across the country, but uncertainty and complexity on infrastructure decision making is blocking progress, deterring investors and holding back our regions from fully realising their incredible potential.

“To set all regions up for success, we need a policy environment that turns plans into action. Increasing the funding allocated to local infrastructure in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and having fewer, more impactful spending pots would put genuine power in the hands of local leaders. And where it’s the government that holds the purse strings on projects, there must be a clearer link between regional growth and decisions that are taken, with sub-transport transport bodies making the case for all areas. If not, we risk some regions accelerating ahead of others, creating a two-speed England.”

Driving Delivery: Turning Plans into Action on Regional Infrastructure can be found on the CBI website.

Image credit | iStock