7 April 2017 | By Thomas Barlow Insight

Regional infrastructure priorities

Insight: Thomas Barlow, CBI infrastructure senior policy adviser

Infrastructure’s vital role in delivering prosperity puts it high on the agenda for CBI members, who have been telling the CBI which improvements matter most to their region

Infrastructure provides the essential foundations business needs to deliver jobs, growth and prosperity for all. As the Government develops a modern industrial strategy and widens the focus of its devolution agenda, a clearer picture of the infrastructure needs of each part of the country will be critical.

Improving regional infrastructure aligns with the views of CBI members, with just a quarter of respondents to the CBI’s 2016 infrastructure survey satisfied with the infrastructure in their region, and concerns voiced in all regions about capacity, connectivity and resilience.

With this in mind, the CBI has engaged with members in all regions to produce its Shaping Regional Infrastructure report, which will soon be available, informing conversations between business, government and broader stakeholders about how all parties can work together to deliver the infrastructure necessary to drive growth and prosperity across all regions.

Shaping Regional Infrastructure reflects the unique challenges, and indeed opportunities, each region will face when it comes to its infrastructure needs, setting out six infrastructure priorities for every region. In addition, it highlights four cross-cutting priorities for consideration by national policy-makers as well as strategic and sub-national bodies.

Linking regions to harness growth

Firstly, businesses across the country cite the need to improve connectivity within and between regions. Improved links between the UK’s largest cities provides businesses with access to a broader labour market pool, a wider range of markets and better connections to supply chains. For example, reducing travel times between cities in the North of England, via the best mode of transport, could provide access to a working population of up to 16 million, matching the number within an hour of London today.

Connections with international markets

Firms also recognise, more than ever post Brexit, the need to link the whole of the UK to international markets to increase and encourage export capabilities. To this end, CBI members across all regions cite the need for long-term strategies for aviation and ports within a fully integrated transport system. Investment is now vital at a time when boosting UK trade and exports is arguably more important than ever.

Regional governance

In addition, CBI members across the country are seeking greater clarity on where future infrastructure decisions will sit for the region in which they operate. Business confidence in devolution is highest in the regions where there has already been the greatest clarity, for example across the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, which would suggest a positive view of sub-national bodies, such as Transport for the North and Midlands Connect. While we should not attempt to roll out a one-size-fits-all approach, it is essential that each part of the country has the means and ambition to take forward a shared vision of its own, which complements a long-term national strategy.

Joined up infrastructure

Finally, businesses in all regions voiced a need for a more joined up and strategic approach to planning and delivery across the different types of infrastructure. In particular, the need to better link up local housing plans with economic infrastructure was seen as a priority, with CBI members also keen to highlight the role of technology in improving the UK’s infrastructure.

As the UK begins its exit from the EU, improved infrastructure will be needed to better link our cities and regions with each other, as well as with the rest of the world. As highlighted by Shaping Regional Infrastructure, the CBI and its members will play a key role in this discussion to deliver growth that is felt in all parts of the country.

Read about the priorities for your region in Shaping Regional Infrastructure

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