Industry Reaction to UK Infrastructure Plan

The recent infrastructure investment package announced last week by the UK Government sparked a mixed bag of responses from the industry.

Everyone knows the importance of investment in this sector, but how much of this is political rhetoric and how much is real commitment?

Katja Hall, Chief Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the UK’s business watchdog, was reticent; “We must change the current patch-and-mend, stop-start approach to repairing the road network. Giving the Highways Agency long-term funding means it can’t fall victim to the short-term whims of ministers and allows contractors to plan for the future with confidence.”

“This is only the first step. We need a radical overhaul in how we pay for and manage the road network to attract long-term private investment, instead of relying on ever-tighter public funding.

“Bringing forward the A14’s start-date is a huge shot in the arm of the regional and wider national economy. We now must nail down the detail of how we fund it.”

“The HS2 project is important but it needs to wash its face. Industry, investors and taxpayers need confidence that the business case and programme management is watertight. Given wider public spending constraints, ministers need to keep very firm control of costs.”

David Tonkin, Atkins’ UK and Europe chief executive officer called for an integrated plan; “It is encouraging that the UK has a strong pipeline of infrastructure projects and that some schemes such as HS2 are already underway, but more detailed planning is required to translate the longer list of opportunities from paper to tangible progress.

“Each project needs a clear definition of what it aims to achieve and clarity on the funding available from Government and any additional investment required from the private sector. A detailed and integrated industry plan can then be developed and adopted for its delivery. Having these basic steps in place will provide the confidence to attract necessary private and institutional investment and will allow the supply chain to add more value and deliver the infrastructure more efficiently.”

Chris Temple partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC) engineering and construction called for transparency, 
”The announcement to support the construction and house building sector with major investments is welcome in theory, but we will need the details to be transparent and for the Government to adopt an ‘act now’ approach to avoid any further stagnation. 

”The £3bn to kick start the 165,000 new affordable homes is an ambitious commitment and will be a welcome change from the current low levels of funding into the sector. We will also need to see a commitment towards better connectivity between financiers, suppliers, contractors and buyers to enable this ambition to be realised.”

Sue Percy, Chief Executive of the UK’s, Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) called for a multi modal strategy;

“Whilst we welcome the investment outlined for the highways sector, CIHT believe that this must form part of a long-term multi modal strategy. This and future investment must not only be in large-scale high profile schemes but also in smaller scale projects that can have a direct positive impact on local communities and economies.”

“Everyone relies on or uses transport daily, integrated transport is fundamental to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the community. The whole transport network (including rail, buses, walking & cycling) is important to different users in different ways and must be effective to provide a safe and efficient level of service.”

Other voices in the media highlighted the fact that the investment package announced covered commitments already made to projects already underway and labeled it misleading…

Tell us your views and post your comments below.

Richard Greenan