UK infrastructure’s not up to snuff, record number of firms tells CBI


A record number of firms are dissatisfied with the state of infrastructure in their region, according to the 2017 CBI/AECOM Infrastructure Survey.

With the UK currently ranking 27th in the world for the quality of its infrastructure, nearly all (96%) of the 727 businesses surveyed see infrastructure as important (of which 55% view it as critical) to the Government’s agenda. From the Clean Growth Strategy and the £500 billion infrastructure pipeline to its decision to build a new runway at Heathrow and press ahead with the A303 tunnel, the Government has made clear its commitment to British infrastructure.

However, only one in five firms is satisfied with the pace of delivery (20%) and almost three quarters (74%) doubt infrastructure will improve over this Parliament. This lack of confidence is attributed primarily to policy inconsistency (+94% of firms) & political risk (+86%). The digital sector is the exception, however, where 59% of firms are confident of improvements.

For the first time, this year’s Survey included the public’s views on infrastructure. Their opinions closely mirror those of companies, as only 26% of the public believe delivery is satisfactory and 76% doubt any improvement will occur this Parliament.

Firms’ dissatisfaction with infrastructure in their region has increased – over half (54%) are dissatisfied (or very dissatisfied), an 8 percentage point increase on last year’s Survey.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “We’ve seen a real commitment from the Government on infrastructure over the last year, from decisions on Heathrow and the A303 to pledges to scale up the supply of housing and clean energy. But our survey shows this is not translating into optimism about future improvements among both firms and the public, who are united in their concern about the pace of delivery for new projects. We’ve now reached crunch time for the UK’s infrastructure.

“As the foundation for wider growth, world-class infrastructure is fundamental in driving productivity, and helps create jobs and raise living standards. Our message is as clear as it is simple – this is no time for discussion and delays, it’s time for delivery. This needs to be heard not just by Westminster, but by local and devolved governments, as making progress on smaller, local projects is just as important as the bigger projects. Firms will not be forgiving if this focus slips.

“With continuing uncertainty over Brexit, it’s all the more important the Government delivers quality infrastructure as a key pillar of a modern and effective Industrial Strategy, from excellent quality gateways to the world to a funding framework that gives investors the sustained confidence they need. It is a vital lever for spreading prosperity across the whole of the UK.

“These findings must not be confused with pessimism though. Businesses have been unambiguous about what needs to happen, from delivering on the current road and rail pipelines to putting in place an urgent long-term energy plan and making housing a top priority. Firms are keen to work shoulder to shoulder with the Government, bringing their construction and funding capability, innovation and agility to the table, enabling the UK to face the future with confidence.