Faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure could undermine efforts to secure the recovery

Just a quarter of businesses in the South West are satisfied with domestic links
9 out of 10 businesses in the South West don’t believe that road networks will improve over the next five years

Businesses are concerned that two years of positive Government infrastructure policy announcements will not translate into delivery on the ground and could undermine the return to sustainable growth, a new CBI/KPMG report reveals.

The survey of 526 business leaders shows an improving UK infrastructure investment environment, but finds that two out of three firms (65%) believe that government policies will have no tangible impact, or even a negative one. With only a third of businesses (35%) believing that they will make a difference on the ground. (Regional data for the South West below).

The report, Connect More, highlights the importance of infrastructure to sustainable UK growth, yet with many outstanding issues such as the future funding of the road network businesses expect things to get worse over the next five years.

Andrew Jenkins, CBI South West Regional Director, said: “Quality infrastructure is vital for boosting exports, unlocking business investment across the south west, and supporting our leading firms – an essential element of a meaningful industrial strategy.

“I know that ministers share our enthusiasm for progress, but Government has talked the talk on infrastructure for the last two years with too few signs of action.

“The faltering speed of delivery on infrastructure creates a worrying sense that politicians lack the political will to tackle some of the major issues head-on.

“We can’t afford any further delay. The Coalition must show strong leadership and prove that the UK can deliver on a small number of projects over the next 18 months and reach a much-needed consensus on bigger issues such as aviation and roads reform.”

Phil Cotton, South Region Chairman at KPMG, said: “The South West must remain competitive as a UK region in order to secure our future economic prosperity. Central to this is the need to have modern transport networks which are fit for purpose. If we don’t get the investment we need from the Government we risk becoming a backwater that’s bypassed by businesses which place transport links at the top of their agenda.”

In the South West, out of the 41 businesses surveyed, 73% said they believe that government policies will have either no tangible impact, or even a negative one. Only 26% believe that the current policies will make a difference on the ground.

Action is needed. Just a quarter (25%) of businesses in the South West said they are satisfied with the current domestic links in the region.

Road, rail and air networks were named as key areas of concern for South West businesses. 88% of businesses said they were pessimistic about local roads improving in the region over the next five years. 35% said they had also noticed a deterioration of intercity rail services, making the railway electrification of the Great Western Mainline a key priority area of investment for the future.

44% of businesses in the South West believe domestic air links have got worse over the last five years and 55% believe they will continue to deteriorate over the next five years.

43% believe coach and bus networks in the region have largely stayed the same over the last five years and a similar figure (40%) expect them to remain in a similar condition over the next five years. In fact just 13% expect to see an improvement.

The CBI is calling for five practical steps to be taken in the next 18 months to boost immediate construction, while also setting the groundwork for longer-term decisions:

  • Boost investment by introducing capital allowances for the construction of infrastructure projects at the Autumn Statement.
  • Complete all feasibility studies for road and rail projects outlined in the Spending Review and commit to detailed plans for delivery, while starting the debate on longer-term road reform by conducting an audit of the state of the road network and its costs to operate.
  • Enshrine the Energy Bill into legislation and bring forward secondary legislation to provide businesses with the certainty they need to invest in our future energy supply.
  • Commit to implement the findings of the Airports Commission in party manifestos.
  • Collaborate with industry on a long-term plan for digital infrastructure, enabling businesses to make use of a wide range of technologies.