In an article for City A.M., CBI Director of Infrastructure Tom Thackray, stated the case for a national infrastructure strategy that can ease the burden of commuters across the country.
A recent CBI, Novelli and Opinium poll of 2000 employees finding that they lost on average 2.7 hours a week due to travel disruption and delays – a figure that amounts to the average employee losing 125 hours during the course of a working year thanks to commuting problems.
“Improvements in how people get to work therefore have the potential to not only improve the UK’s productivity but also our quality of life,” he said.
This gives the new government and opportunity to start fulfilling some of those election promises that won over traditionally Labour-voting constituencies across the North and Midlands.
“Indeed, we’ve already seen Metro Mayors and local leaders pushing for their own 'wish lists' of regional infrastructure, eager to address the poor connectivity that is currently leaving their region behind,” he continued.
He added that more investment is clearly needed but alone is not sufficient. “Businesses want the new government to deliver certainty through a national infrastructure strategy that sets out how infrastructure will be delivered and a Budget outlining how it will be funded.”
He went on to call for any strategy to be accompanied with a plan for a more accountable and transparent rail system, with greater alignment between those who own the tracks and those who run the trains. A focus should also be put on easing road congestion and delivering connectivity in towns and cities across the country through expanding smart ticketing while making transport systems greener and more affordable.
Tom called on the new government to seize this opportunity to move up the global infrastructure ranks offered by technological innovations and the transition to a net-zero economy.
He added that businesses are aware of having a part to play to ease the burden on workers – pointing to recent CBI research that found, “just 16% of employees had been offered a flexible start time to avoid rush hour, and just 23% could decide the hours they work.”
More opportunities for flexible working could bring, “significant opportunities to not only improve the commute but make better use of existing infrastructure capacity and reduce emissions from transport,” he continued.
Tom concluded by setting out the CBI’s role in helping the UK on this journey by working with KPMG to outline the infrastructure investments that can help tackle the UK’s productivity gap and how business can work with the government to make the commute more affordable, reliable and environmentally sound.
His final point was to highlight the potential for the meeting of this challenge to build trust among voters who may have “lent their vote” at the recent general election and will be expecting a response.