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Infrastructure stagnation fears revealed

British Houses of Parliament 3to2

Just one in four businesses expect UK infrastructure to improve over the next five years, according to a survey.

The poll of 727 firms, conducted this summer by business group the CBI and infrastructure specialists Aecom, found that 74% lacked confidence that infrastructure would improve this Parliament.

This lack of faith, immediately after the General Election, was largely put down to policy inconsistency and political risk. Lack of certainty in the infrastructure pipeline was cited by a balance of two-thirds of respondents.

Despite 96% saying infrastructure was important, only 20% of those questioned were satisfied with the pace of delivery.

Dissatisfaction with regional infrastructure was highest in Wales, then the North West and the South West. Satisfaction was highest in Yorkshire and the Humber, and London.

More than 1,500 members of the public were also polled, and 76% of these doubted there would be an improvement in UK infrastructure before 2022.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn 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 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.

“With continuing uncertainty over Brexit, it’s all the more important the government delivers quality infrastructure as a key pillar of a modern and effective industrial strategy, from excellent quality gateways to the world to a funding framework that gives investors the sustained confidence they need.”

Aecom chief executive of civil infrastructure across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa Richard Robinson said there was a strong correlation between infrastructure investment and economic growth.

“It is hardly surprising that when infrastructure decisions are delayed, it is UK business that feels the pain,” he added.

“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.”

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) said it had long argued that the delivery of world-class infrastructure was vital to economic and social growth.

Ceca external affiars director Marie-Claude Hemming said: ”We are pleased that the government has continued to focus on infrastructure delivery in this parliament and this is reflected in our most recent research indicating continued growth in the workloads of our members across Great Britain.

“However, expectations for the next year are mixed, suggesting that the sector is not operating efficiently.

“This is disappointing as we have long argued that investment in world-class infrastructure can deliver real growth to all areas of the UK.

“As the UK continues its negotiations with the EU ahead of Brexit, it is vital that the government does all it can to unlock infrastructure’s potential to boost connectivity, create jobs, and deliver strong economic growth for the long term.”

The government insisted infrastructure was “at the heart” of its economic strategy.

“The UK has a strong track record of infrastructure delivery,” said a spokesperson. ”Since 2010, around 3,000 infrastructure projects have been completed, over a quarter of a trillion pounds invested, and the largest engineering project in Europe, Crossrail, will soon be finished.

“We are committed to delivering a major increase in government investment, with a 50% increase in transport spending that will enable more investment in our roads and the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century.

“We have also improved the way that decisions are taken over our transport, digital and energy projects, by setting up the National Infrastructure Commission to provide impartial, expert advice on our future needs and priorities.”

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