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Government must back infrastructure plan to kick start crucial UK projects

The ICE and other construction bodies last week urged the government to clarify its infrastructure upgrade plans after politicians from across the political spectrum expressed doubts about plans to upgrade the country’s infrastructure.

A survey of 107 MPs carried out by a panel from CITB-ConstructionSkills and market research firm ComRes, showed that 54% believed that infrastructure projects and programmes - from High Speed 2 (HS2) to the new nuclear construction programme - would not be delivered on time or to budget.

At a Labour party conference reception in Manchester last week, the Infrastructure Alliance, of which the ICE is a members urged ministers to adopt a four-point plan to heed recommendations made in its recent Avoiding the Infrastructure Crunch: Getting Britain Working report. These are:

  • Action to stimulate “shovel-ready” maintenance and minor works
  • Analysis of future demand for skills to ensure the UK has a world class infrastructure workforce to deliver vital future projects
  • Moves to rebalance investment to rebuild activity in communities across the UK to support a more even economic recovery
  • Development of greater consensus on the country’s infrastructure needs and how they can best be delivered.

The Infrastructure Alliance comprises the ICE, the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and the Construction Products Association working in partnership with sector skills council CITB-ConstructionSkills.

The Alliance hosted a reception at the Labour Party Conference at which guest speakers included former construction minister Nick Raynsford MP and Strategic and Forum for Construction chairman Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan. O’Neill said the government must develop an integrated transport policy that serves the nation’s future needs, supporting growth, promoting environmental sustainability and improving deliverability of transport projects.

He added that it was vital that the UK supply chain had the skills to deliver infrastructure and transport projects, which are vital for economic growth.

Core infrastructure investment

“Investment in Britain’s core infrastructure is a key part of how we start to move the country out of the double-dip recession. It creates jobs and growth now, and it facilitates jobs and growth in the future,” he said.

“Too often the choices politicians make about where to invest simply isn’t informed by a strategic view of the long-term demands on Britain’s infrastructure. I hope we do a bit better than the “can’t see beyond the next election” cliché, as cross-party support on HS2 and our call for bi-partisan talks on airport capacity demonstrate - and at last those calls have been heeded.”

Speaking for the Infrastructure Alliance, ICE director general Nick Baveystock said: “Infrastructure has a pivotal part to play in enabling our economic recovery - not only does it drive jobs and growth but it builds the skills we need to compete internationally.

“The National Infrastructure Plan is in place but to truly to deliver the infrastructure this country needs, we have to take a long term, strategic and genuinely visionary view, taking in the whole of UK.

“Greater political consensus is imperative, not only on the programme of works in the National Infrastructure Plan but on finance and delivery mechanisms, allowing government to drive down risk and make infrastructure an attractive investment - providing industry and investors greater certainty against which to plan.”

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