CBI/AECOM survey: Deliver infrastructure projects now

More than 70% of infrastructure providers are not confident that Highways England has the capacity to deliver the Road Investment Strategy (RIS), according to findings in the CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey 2016.

Ninety-seven per cent of respondents see the delivery of £15 billion of investment in the UK’s motorways and A-roads as important to the UK’s future economic growth, but 56% believe industry lacks the capacity to deliver it.

Other key findings that relate to the roads sector are as follows:

  • 73% of firms see tackling congestion on the road network as critical or important to the future operation of their business, yet a negative balance of -38% expect to see roads improve over the rest of this parliament
  • Looking ahead to RIS 2, businesses prioritise linking the road network to other forms of transport, with 75% calling this critical or important.

More generally, almost half of firms (44%) believe the UK’s infrastructure has improved over the past five years, but only a quarter (27%) think it will pick up in the next five years, and two thirds (64%) suspect it will hamper the country’s international competitiveness in the coming decades.

Confidence that overall infrastructure will improve in the coming five years has fallen 16 percentage points since the 2015 Survey (from 43% to 27%). A significant majority of firms are not optimistic that infrastructure in aviation (74%), energy (73%) and roads (69%) will improve, with only digital bucking the trend (59% of companies expect improvements in this area). Moreover, the majority (64%) of firms feel the UK is unlikely to be more internationally competitive in 2050 than it is now, and 46% are dissatisfied with the current state of their local infrastructure.

To secure delivery of the most important projects, Britain’s biggest business group, and the global infrastructure services firm, AECOM, want to see the government reaffirm spending plans and press ahead with implementing policy decisions to ensure projects are delivered in full over the course of this Parliament.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said: “Infrastructure is a key driver of productivity and living standards. Day in, day out, Britain’s businesses rely on our roads, railways and runways to move their goods, services and people up and down the country. Firms give the government a good report card on infrastructure, and are pleased with its commitment in recent years to put infrastructure at the heart of its long-term economic agenda.

“But announcements and commitments are one thing. Seeing tarmac, tracks, and super-fast internet cables being laid is another. It isn’t right that nearly one in two firms are dissatisfied with their region’s infrastructure, or that confidence in the future is running low, especially when it comes to delivery, the key piece of the infrastructure puzzle.

“So, our message is a simple one: at the end of the day, delivery is what matters. It’s great the Government is taking the decisions for our long-term future prosperity, like giving the green light to the new runway at Heathrow, Hinkley Point and improving digital connections. Businesses also need clear, deliverable timetables for action on major national projects – like Control Period 5 and the Road Investment Strategy – in order for them to act as magnets for investment, growth and jobs.

“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, said: “Developing truly world-class national infrastructure is of paramount importance. It will enable British industry to innovate, expand and flourish, strengthening the UK’s reputation as a good place to do business. High-profile, transformational projects such as HS2, Hinkley and Heathrow are vital but must not be prioritised to the detriment of the Highways England and Network Rail schemes that keep our country running.

“Fortunately the UK has moved on from the era of under-investment in infrastructure. 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.”

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