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Businesses call for faster infrastructure progress

Political procrastination on infrastructure decisions is hampering investment by business, according to the latest CBI/Aecom infrastructure survey.

The survey found that the quality of infrastructure is a key factor for 90% of firms when making investment decisions. Two thirds said they were worried that the pace of delivery was too slow.

The survey asked 722 firms about the quality of infrastructure in the UK, with 45% seeing it as improving, rather than 23% seeing it as deteriorating. Of all the infrastructure issues, 97% said that investment in a secure and diverse energy mix was vital. Key schemes that firms said were important were a new runway in the South East – 91% of firms said this was important to them – and almost half of businesses said they wanted spending increased on the rail network.

CBI director general John Cridland said: “The arteries of modern Britain are working overtime. Whether it’s our creaking railways, clogged roads, and crowded runways, or our digital links and the energy to power them struggling to keep up, businesses now want the Government to deliver the large scale upgrades that it has made ambitious strides towards. The quality of infrastructure is a key factor in firms’ investment decisions, so businesses, communities and the whole country simply can’t afford the cost of inaction.

“Business and Government are on the same page on the need to invest in our infrastructure future, as we have seen with the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission. But that hasn’t stopped wrong turns being taken, like the reversal on Government support for renewable energy.

“Delivery of key projects – from where we build a new runway to how we power our industry and homes for the future – must be the crowning achievement of this Parliament. That doesn’t just mean taking the tough decisions for the long-term. It means better planning and having the right skills in place to ensure there is seamless continuity from when the green light is given for action to getting spades in the ground.”

Aecom chief executive for civil infrastructure for EMEA and India said: “Political procrastination over infrastructure threatens economic growth and jeopardises investment. When infrastructure decisions are deferred, business takes the hit. The challenge for Government is to build business confidence, fostering a financial and operational climate that accelerates delivery.

“Industry needs the Government to maintain a clear and consistent vision, and to have the courage to make politically charged decisions when they are in the long-term interests of the country. Delays and never-ending reviews of vital infrastructure stall progress and help nobody.

“Recent moves such as the creation of a National Infrastructure Commission and the mapping of expertise against the project pipeline through the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills are welcome initiatives. But more needs to be done to support the development of UK companies’ intellectual assets and to create an environment that encourages the development and export of organisational and technical skills. Only then will UK firms be better equipped to compete on the global stage.”

The CBI and Aecom listed five issues the government needs to tackle to improve infrastructure. These were producing a clear, consistent and long-term energy plan; investing in rail capacity across the network; boosting road resilience by investing in the whole journey; a new runway for better connections to emerging markets; and improved digital operations.

In order to improve delivery of infrastructure projects, the CBI and Aecom suggested that local planning needs to be accelerated, there needs to be more clarity on what infrastructure businesses can do to improve skills, abd the government must better adapt to the infrastructure market. They also suggested a long term infrastructure strategy based on assessment of need and making the most of the devolution opportunity.

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