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CBI/Aecom urge focus on infrastructure delivery as survey reveals pessimism

Only a quarter of business leaders believe the state of the country’s infrastructure will improve by 2020, according to a report by the CBI and Aecom.

Concerns over the future of UK infrastructure emerged in the organisations’ annual infrastructure survey, which found that only 27 per cent of firms foresee an improvement in the state of the UK’s infrastructure by 2020.

This was down from 43 per cent in last year’s survey.

Almost two-thirds of businesses believe the UK is unlikely to be more internationally competitive in 2050 than it is now.

Meanwhile, a fifth of respondents said they thought UK infrastructure would deteriorate between 2015 and 2020.

The report attributed the results to uncertainty following the EU referendum and the formation of a new government.

Two in five infrastructure providers said they were dissatisfied with the current business environment for delivering infrastructure projects, with only a quarter satisfied with access to funding or financing.

This was despite 44 per cent of firms reporting that the UK’s infrastructure had improved over the past five years, and 42 per cent saying they were encouraged by the policies put in place in this parliament.

More than 97 per cent of respondents said the delivery of Highways England’s Roads Investment Strategy and Network Rail’s Control Period 5 enhancements were top priorities for UK plc.

However, 74 per cent of these respondents were ’not confident’ Network Rail could deliver the rest of CP5, while 71 per cent were ‘not confident’ that Highways England had the capacity to complete RIS.

On the quality of infrastructure by region, only 40 per cent of London businesses were satisfied with their regional networks, compared with 28 per cent in Yorkshire & Humber, 8 per cent in Wales and 5 per cent in the West Midlands.

In total, 728 infrastructure investors, providers or users responded to the survey, which was carried out between 27 May and 22 July.

The EU referendum fell in the middle of the survey’s data collection period and before decisions on Hinkley Point C and Heathrow had been made.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Our message is a simple one: at the end of the day, delivery is what matters.

“Announcements and commitments are one thing – seeing tarmac, tracks and super-fast internet cables being laid is another.

“If we don’t get spades in the ground on existing plans, it’s clear we could put a major dent in the competitiveness of British business – and the UK itself.”

Aecom chief executive for civil infrastructure (EMIA) Richard Robinson said: “At a time of uncertainty, clarity around infrastructure investment and delivery will boost business confidence.

“The UK has a long history of successful major infrastructure projects, leading the world in creating innovative new delivery models. Schemes such as Crossrail and Tideway are beacons of best practice around the globe.

“Fortunately the UK has moved on from the era of under-investment in infrastructure. Since the start of this decade we have seen a revitalised commitment to infrastructure investment and its transformative power. The focus now must be on delivery.”

Key findings

64 per cent of respondents feel that the UK is unlikely to be more internationally competitive in 2050 than it is now.

99 per cent see delivery of rail projects in Control Period 5 and 97 per cent see delivery of the Road Investment Strategy as important priorities for UK plc.

40 per cent of infrastructure providers are dissatisfied with the current business environment for delivery.

86 per cent of infrastructure providers are concerned that skills shortages will affect the UK’s ability to deliver the current infrastructure pipeline.

59 per cent of respondents are open to greater use of private financing models for the road and rail networks, moving away from the exclusively government-funded model currently used.

46 per cent of businesses are dissatisfied with the current state of infrastructure in the region in which they personally operate and 47 per cent think devolution will improve infrastructure in their region.

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