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Infrastructure will hamper UK’s international competitiveness – survey

Words: Laura Edgar
M25 interchange, Surrey

Two thirds of businesses think the UK’s infrastructure will hamper its competitiveness in the coming decades, according to the 2016 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey.

The survey also suggests that 44 per cent of the 728 firms surveyed believe the UK’s infrastructure has improved over the past five years, but only 27 per cent think it will improve in the next five years.

Delivery of projects already in the pipeline was noted as the top priority by those surveyed. The delivery of the £38 billion of investment in the rail network through Control Period 5 (2014-2019) came out on top for 99 per cent of businesses. 97 per cent noted the £15 billion of investment in the UK’s motorways and A-roads through the Road Investment Strategy as a priority, while a new runway in the South East (85 per cent) and HS2 (80 per cent) were also listed as priorities.

42 per cent of firms see the policies undertaken by the government since the beginning of the 2015 Parliament, such as Transport for the North, as positive steps.

However, 64 per cent of companies think the UK is unlikely to be more internationally competitive in 2050 that it is now, while 46 per cent are dissatisfied with their local infrastructure.

The survey suggests that since the 2015 survey (pdf), confidence in overall infrastructure improving in the coming five year has fallen from 43 per cent to 27 per cent. 74 per cent of businesses don’t think aviation infrastructure will improve; 73 per cent don’t think energy infrastructure will improve and 69 per cent don’t think roads will improve.

To secure delivery of the “most important” projects, AECOM, an infrastructure services company, want to see the government reaffirm spending plans and press ahead with implementing policy decisions to ensure projects are delivered in full during this Parliament.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said announcements and commitments are “one thing”. Seeing tarmac, tracks and super-fast broadband cables being laid “is another”. For Fairbairn, “delivery is what matters”.

“If we don’t get spades in the ground on existing plans, it’s clear we could put a major dent in the competitiveness of British business – and the UK itself. This is something we cannot afford do, especially during this period of uncertainty as the UK leaves the EU. Firms are ready and willing to work with the government to develop the skills and capacity to deliver on plans.”

Richard Robinson, chief executive – Civil Infrastructure, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, at AECOM, added: “At a time of uncertainty, clarity around infrastructure investment and delivery will boost business confidence.

“Since the start of this decade we have seen a revitalised commitment to infrastructure investment and its transformative power. The focus now must be on delivery.”

* The 2016 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey was conducted between 25 May and 22 July 2016. 728 firms replied.

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