The Government must build a coherent approach to improve infrastructure across the country and avoid the risk of regions being left behind whilst others pull ahead in a two-speed England, according to a new report from the CBI.
With record levels of public investment in the transport system, and a commitment to developing major projects – such as HS2, Crossrail and the new runway at Heathrow – the Government has shown a strong will to improve infrastructure across the country. Transport has also become a key feature of the devolution agenda, and Sub-national transport bodies (STBs, such as Transport for the North) have been established to enable areas to speak with one voice on their priorities.
But Driving Delivery: Turning plans into action on regional infrastructure – the result of discussions with a wide range of businesses and transport organisations across England – identifies concerns that the complexity of infrastructure decision-making and a lack of transparency around how investment decisions are made are putting the promise of greater connectivity at risk. To remedy this, the UK’s largest business group is calling for:
- A commitment in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to increase local transport funding and to consolidate the number of funding pots for local transport investment
- Greater emphasis on future economic potential in the Government’s infrastructure decision making to deliver investment across regions
- STBs for the South West and East of England, so all parts of the country are represented, alongside clearer expectations of their role
- A framework from the Government enabling regions and local leaders to make the most of the opportunities of devolution
- A cross-Whitehall Infrastructure Committee, to better coordinate infrastructure planning, decision-making and delivery across government departments.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
“High quality and reliable infrastructure keeps the economy moving, drives growth in our regions, and has a greater impact on productivity than anything else. That is when it works, and when it is there.
“Unfortunately, England’s infrastructure is a patchwork quilt. It takes longer to get from Liverpool to Hull by train than from London to Paris. Firms have identified the most important projects across the country, but uncertainty and complexity on infrastructure decision making is blocking progress, deterring investors and holding back our regions from fully realising their incredible potential.
“To set all regions up for success, we need a policy environment that turns plans into action. Increasing the funding allocated to local infrastructure in the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, and having fewer, more impactful spending pots would put genuine power in the hands of local leaders. And where it’s the Government that holds the purse strings on projects, there must be a clearer link between regional growth and decisions that are taken, with STBs making the case for all areas. If not, we risk some regions accelerating ahead of others, creating a two-speed England.
“As we focus on being an outward-looking, trading nation, we need world-beating regional infrastructure that unlocks productivity and makes us the envy of our competitors. Business and transport organisations will be the first to work with the Government to achieve this.”