Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Engineers hear why infrastructure is key to strong economic recovery

Former director general of business lobby group the CBI Lord Jones last week stressed the need for government to invest in infrastructure.

Business Ambassador

Jones, now a business ambassador at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, told the ICE that investment in ports, airports, roads and railways was vital if the UK is to compete with developing nations such as China and India.

“Cuts never grew anything,” he said. “We have to have policies that grow the economy. These are important times,” he stressed, “the most important for two generations. Unless we get infrastructure right, business will not succeed.

“The only way out of where we are now is to trade our way out. And we cannot do that unless our infrastructure is world class. It’s the only way to compete.”

“The only way out of where we are now is to trade our way out. And we cannot do that unless our infrastructure is world class. It’s the only way to compete.”

Lord Jones

Jones was speaking at the inaugural ICE/Amey Prestige lecture in London last week, two days before chancellor George Osborne delivered his 2011 Budget aimed at making Britain more competitive in the global marketplace.

Jones set out a chilling view of the future, should the UK not respond. “The 21st century belongs to Asia. How we raise our game to deal with that will define the success or failure of our children and our children’s children.”

Jones said the UK government must invest in physical infrastructure such as ports and airports and to tackle the increasing lack of skills in the workplace.

He warned that controversial decisions had to be made. He said High Speed Two was essential as he believes it will soon become unacceptable to fly between major European cities. But he said the line should follow the existing West Coast Main Line to minimise the blight on greenfield land.

“I think we are going to lose an essential part of the argument if we are just going to argue “do we need it’. We need to be arguing about the route,” he said.

“It is clear that there will come a day when we don’t fly within Europe. But is it right that, to achieve that, a railway goes through some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe?

High speed rail

Jones argued that the case for high speed rail centred on making Birmingham a suburb of London, making Birmingham International Airport an alternative to overloaded London airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick, and on cutting journey times between London and Scotland.

He said he had yet to hear a convincing argument for why building a high speed route alongside the West CoastMain Line could not achieve all three.

On airports he said the government had to confront environmental groups and commit to expanding Heathrow with a third runway.

“We have the busiest airport in the world and it’s full. What are we going to do about it? To anyone who says it doesn’t matter because planes can land at Paris Charles de Gaulle or Amsterdam Schipol, I say “fine, let the flights go, and along with it the wealth, the job creation, and the tax”.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.