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Reaction: National Infrastructure Plan 2013

A full round-up of industry reaction to today’s National Infrastructure Plan 2013 and announcements on insurers’ plans to invest £25bn in UK infrastructure.

Paul Fleetham, managing director of Lafarge Tarmac Contracting:

“The news that plans to toll the A14 have been dropped is reassuring and marks a vote for common sense. If tolls were enforced on such an important principal route, it would have placed huge pressures on the local authority road network. 

 

“We’ve not seen anything today which gives councils and contractors assurance that there are funds in place”

Paul Fleetham, Lafarge Tarmac

“Against a backdrop of protracted delays for many large projects, it is disappointing that the updated National Infrastructure Plan fails to provide support for smaller schemes such as essential highways upgrades.

“The government has previously said it will provide additional funding for maintaining local roads from 2015 to 2020.

“However, we’ve not seen anything today which gives councils and contractors assurance that there are funds in place to maintain this rapidly deteriorating asset now.”

Murray Rowden, managing director of infrastructure at Turner & Townsend:

“The first National Infrastructure Plan was widely recognised as little more than a long wishlist of projects, with few details on how they would be paid for. This plan seems different.

“Today’s confirmation that the insurance industry is to invest £25bn over the next five years is a great achievement”

Murray Rowden, Turner & Townsend

“Previous efforts to cast pension funds as white knights proved overly optimistic, with a scheme designed to attract £20bn from the industry securing just £1bn in pledges.

“So today’s confirmation that the insurance industry is to invest £25bn over the next five years is a great achievement.”

“On paper the infrastructure sector should be an appealing prospect for these big institutional investors, with its potential for long-term, stable returns.

“But it’s crucial that the government creates the funding models and stability needed to keep the private capital flowing.”

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG:

“We need to put this £25bn figure into perspective. It is less than 10 per cent of the total investment needed, and it remains to be seen how quickly, and to what level, it is invested in actual projects, and whether it is invested in new projects or just displaces existing investors in operational assets and utility companies.

“Improvements to the accuracy of the pipeline help create the conditions where the private sector can plan for the longer term”

Richard Threlfall, KPMG

“The ‘real news’ is that the government has helped negotiate a more supportive regulatory framework under [EU insurance regulation] Solvency II, enabling life insurers with long-term liabilities to provide long-term finance.

“Improvements to the accuracy of the infrastructure pipeline also help create the conditions where the private sector can plan for the longer term, and should help support the uplift in private investment in infrastructure as a result of the improving economic outlook.”

John Dickie, director of strategy & policy at London First:

“The rail station at Gatwick has been neglected for far too long. For many visitors, it’s their first impression of the UK so we welcome this plan for improvement.

“Alongside enhanced services under the new rail franchise and the many improvements made to the airport itself, this is a key step in improvements that are good for Gatwick, good for London and good for the UK.“

Jeremy Blackburn, head of UK policy at RICS:

“There is an urgent need to increase and expand the capability to set up private sector-led delivery mechanisms for infrastructure projects.

“We can create simplified models to enable the delivery of major regional projects through more special-purpose vehicles.

“What is still lacking is real momentum to get these projects moving, even with the £25bn included”

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS

“Projects should be given the go-ahead based on their economic potential, not merely because they appear next in the infrastructure investment pipeline.

“By strategically choosing schemes with greater potential to fuel regional growth, the benefits would be felt more immediately and regional recovery stimulated faster.

“What is still lacking is real momentum to get these projects moving, even with the £25bn included. It has taken three years of plans to reach a programme. Let’s now get on with this – and secure a balanced recovery across all the regions, not just some.”

Nick Prior, head of infrastructure at Deloitte:

“The additional infrastructure funding announced by the Chief Secretary today is welcome but we need much clearer sight of where this money will actually be spent. The government guarantees scheme is making a difference. This has been the most impactful announcement on infrastructure to date. But, the reality is, little of this money will be spent this side of 2015, so we won’t see shovels in the ground on new projects for some time.

“The £25bn commitment from insurers is good news in demonstrating the attractiveness of UK infrastructure to investors. But they still need to see a clear pipeline of opportunities to put their money into and this will require some upfront commitment and ongoing funding from government. The intention is there but the funding is still aspirational.”

Alasdair Reisner, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association:

“Funding is only part of the picture, and support will only come forward if there is a demonstration that projects are investable.

Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers:

“The new 2013 Plan, with its updated pipeline of projects, further £25bn investment and evidence of a shift to “delivery mode”, is a positive step.”

Mat Riley, Head of Infrastructure at EC Harris:

“Today’s revised infrastructure spending programme is, again, strong on headlines, but unclear on delivery. The government is working hard to attract investors such as the insurance funds, but the UK still does not have the right policy environment for these funds to be put to good use and make a real difference, which is compounding the problem.”

“Who would want to take the risk and invest in a nation that cannot even put together a coherent Energy Policy without fear of ridicule? Regulation is largely ineffective, and the balance of power now sits with asset owners and their investors, which means only one outcome for the consumer, and that is higher costs. Politicians are in denial, the real issue is how much cost consumers are ultimately going to bear, and by when.”

 

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