New ministers with responsibility for infrastructure who need to get their heads around the issues quickly could do worse than read Balfour Beatty’s Infrastructure 2050 report out today.
Most contractors have been pretty quiet on what the outcome of the EU referendum means for them and the industry, but Balfour Beatty is making up for that here.
This is a short but comprehensive report, which warns that the uncertainty inherent in the Brexit negotiations is likely to have a detrimental effect on the planning and construction of UK infrastructure.
In the immediate term, it says, the skills shortage is likely to get worse; the UK will lose billions of pounds of public investment that has until now come via the European Investment Bank; and UK infrastructure will be a less attractive destination for private investment due to political and economic uncertainty.
Given that the National Infrastructure Pipeline has been predicting the private sector will contribute 69 per cent of financing, these are not small concerns.
Instead, the report suggests, the government should take advantage of the historically low interest rates to borrow more to build infrastructure.
“This isn’t just a question for them, but rather for all contractors: what are they going to do about this?”
But the report doesn’t only fret about Brexit; it actually sets out a forward-looking vision for the future of UK infrastructure, stressing that those planning it must apply five principles: interoperability, climate resilience, digitisation, smart maintenance and financial sustainability.
Technology must be used – and used well – when assessing future need. The future may be uncertain, but it’s also exciting.
What the report is missing, however, is a set of practical suggestions from Balfour Beatty about how to solve some of the problems it raises.
And this isn’t just a question for them, but rather for all contractors: what are they going to do about this? It’s the whole industry’s responsibility.
There’s nothing more powerful than not only telling the new ministers what problems they face and what they need to consider, but also providing the solutions and setting out how you will deliver them – good for the government, good for the industry.