Infrastructure ‘patchwork quilt’ creating a ‘two speed’ England, says CBI

The Government must improve transport infrastructure across the country to avoid the risk of regions being left behind whilst others pull ahead in a ‘two-speed England’, according to a new report from the CBI.

The report credits ‘record levels’ of public investment in the transport system through projects such as HS2, Crossrail and the new runway at Heathrow, but says ‘uncertainty and complexity’ on infrastructure decision making is blocking progress in other parts of the country.

Driving Delivery: Turning plans into action on regional infrastructure asked businesses and transport organisations across England what their concerns were around infrastructure decision-making and whether they believe a lack of transparency around how investment decisions are made are putting the promise of greater connectivity at risk.

Mentioned in the report is the 2017 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey which showed that over two-thirds of businesses are not confident that road and rail infrastructure will improve in this Parliament, and over half of businesses are dissatisfied with the infrastructure in their region.

The CBI has called for increased local transport spending, a new framework which will enable local leaders to make the most of the opportunities for devolution, and a cross-Whitehall Infrastructure Committee which will better coordinate infrastructure planning, decision-making and delivery across Government departments.

‘High quality and reliable infrastructure keeps the economy moving, drives growth in our regions, and has a greater impact on productivity than anything else. That is when it works, and when it is there,’ said Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director.

‘Unfortunately, England’s infrastructure is a patchwork quilt. It takes longer to get from Liverpool to Hull by train than from London to Paris.

‘To set all regions up for success, we need a policy environment that turns plans into action. Increasing the funding allocated to local infrastructure in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and having fewer, more impactful spending pots would put genuine power in the hands of local leaders.

‘And where it’s the Government that holds the purse strings on projects, there must be a clearer link between regional growth and decisions that are taken, with STBs making the case for all areas. If not, we risk some regions accelerating ahead of others, creating a two-speed England.

‘As we focus on being an outward-looking, trading nation, we need world-beating regional infrastructure that unlocks productivity and makes us the envy of our competitors. Business and transport organisations will be the first to work with the Government to achieve this.’

A Department for Transport spokesman told Environment Journal: ‘We are pleased the CBI welcomes this Government’s record investment in local transport – improving the UK’s infrastructure is at the heart of our plan to boost growth and productivity, including the biggest ever upgrade of the Great Western Main Line, £3bn of improvements to the Transpennine route and building HS2 to become the backbone of our national rail network.’

Read the report here.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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