10 July 2017 | By Carolyn Fairbairn Insight

A pro-enterprise vision for infrastructure

Insight: Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-general, CBI

It’s an exciting time for British businesses. We are facing a once-in-a generation opportunity to transform the infrastructure that is the backbone of our country and the lifeblood of productivity growth

This sense of opportunity applies to everything from runways and railways to sectors such as energy and digital. And it will also affect the lives of everyday people as we bridge the divides between north and south, consolidate the ties connecting communities and build new homes.

Seizing the opportunity

If we are to capitalise on this potential offered to firms throughout the UK, we all (government and business alike) need to appreciate this opportunity isn’t going to seize itself.

The good news is we are heading in the right direction. During the last parliament, we saw decisions on Heathrow, Hinkley and HS2, as well as the introduction of the National Infrastructure Commission, which is crucial to the development of a long-term view in this area.

The next step is to transform our words into actions and work with government to create policies that keep us open to the world, setting out a pro-market, pro-enterprise vision.


The most obvious example in this space is the new runway at Heathrow, which was approved by the government last year. This decision, although not easy, was the right choice for our economy.

What’s next? It is important that construction starts by 2020 and the runway will need to be operational before 2030, with no missed deadlines.

But we need a broader discussion on how we can help all airports thrive – developing an aviation strategy that works for all parts of our UK.

Road and rail

Linking up towns and cities is a top priority for businesses around the UK. Firms want to see further progress on projects such as Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Because regional growth and London’s growth are not an ‘either/or’ choice, they go hand in hand.


There is currently a quiet revolution taking place in the world of energy.

Technologies such as solar and wind mean companies and communities are generating, storing and sharing power – seizing the opportunity of green energy. Looking to the future, government needs to give business certainty in areas such as the investment framework beyond 2020.


Three quarters of firms believe our networks have improved during the past five years. Despite this, there is still a worrying number of ‘digital blindspots’, especially in rural areas. Embracing the next wave of digital involves a country-wide commitment to stay ahead of the competition.


In recent decades, we’re constantly bombarded with the statement that we need to build more houses. Of course it’s true, but the lack of affordable homes isn’t just a social issue. We need to need to fix this by business and government working together to build 250,000 new homes a year within a decade.

*This content is based on a speech given by CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn in June


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