UK must stop running down major infrastructure projects, says London First CEO
12 September 2019
New poll highlights confidence boost from infrastructure investment as two-thirds of business leaders back HS2
In a speech today (Thursday) at its London Infrastructure Summit, Chief Executive of London First, Jasmine Whitbread, will urge the UK Government to stop running down major projects or risk being unable to fund them in the future.
Speaking to 300 industry leaders and experts at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, the head of the capital’s leading business group will call on politicians to back investment in the UK’s infrastructure and commit to an ambitious future programme, rather than putting off potential investors with endless negativity.
This comes as a new poll of over 500 business leaders reveals that more than half (61%) believe that London’s road and rail transport networks are no more reliable than they were five years ago. Nearly a third (32.7%) said transport has become more of an issue for their business over that period, compared to 39.1% who said it was less of an issue and 25.1% who saw no change. Businesses were clear that their confidence would be boosted by critical infrastructure investment, with strong support for HS2 and Crossrail 2, alongside digital and electric vehicle infrastructure.
“We constantly run down our projects. How many times have you heard that project ‘x’ will be a disaster, or project ‘y’ is just the sort of thing that would work well somewhere else, but not here?
“So yes, Crossrail has been delayed. Just like the Paris metro and many others — countless others all over the globe. But it is still the biggest project of its kind in Europe … a game-changer for London transport.
“These are all complete red herrings. We need to move beyond them. And realise that functioning, cohesive, nationwide infrastructure is probably the best way to reunite and grow a fractured country at a critical moment in its history.”
The poll’s key findings show:
8 in 10 (81%) identified the importance of investment in digital infrastructure;
7 in 10 said the same about investment in electrical vehicle infrastructure;
Other schemes identified as particularly important for boosting business confidence were upgrades to the Piccadilly line (72%), confirmation that HS2 will go ahead (66%) and a commitment to Crossrail 2 (65%).
“Reviews are springing up, decisions being delayed. Political and regulatory risk is a growing concern. The knock-on effect of uncertainty is that plans for local and regional investment get pushed back too. And the chances of future investment, even decades down the line, get slimmer.
“So many times, on so many subjects, I speak about London needing to do more to maintain its position at the front of the pack. But with infrastructure it’s different – we need to do all this simply to stop ourselves falling behind.”
London First is calling for the Government to commit to the independent National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) recommendations to invest 1.2% of GDP to deliver critical projects including in HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Crossrail 2.
A new report by London First, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, the North West Business Leadership Team, and WPI, published today, underlines how critical it is to invest in infrastructure across the UK and argues that this investment should not be viewed as a zero-sum game between the capital and the UK as a whole. Roundtable discussions with business leaders across the country found that Londoners support Northern Powerhouse Rail, just as those in Liverpool and Leeds support Crossrail 2, with strong support across the country for delivering the NIC’s recommendations in full and viewing 1.2% GDP as the floor, not the ceiling, for infrastructure spend. The report also recommends that government devolve more budgetary control and powers to local authorities and regional bodies, to drive a step-change in the quality of transport infrastructure across the UK.
Research commissioned as part of the report shows that if the UK had invested 1.2% of GDP in transport infrastructure each year since 1995, an extra £80 billion would have been spent to secure greater connectivity. Over the next decade, a decision to spend only 1% of GDP on infrastructure, rather than 1.2%, would mean close to £50bn reduction in investment.
Matthew Oakley, Director of WPI Economics, said:
“For too long policymakers and politicians have approached infrastructure investment as a zero-sum game, pitting regions against each other and shying away from delivering on much needed schemes. But that’s not how businesses across the country think. Politicians need to cut through the politics and get on with the investment they know is needed right across the UK.
“Doing so will require difficult decisions to be made. Our report shows how: commit to 1.2% of GDP as an investment floor, deliver on projects that have already been agreed, then use devolution to give more power to regions to work together to deliver future schemes.
“Delivering these things will require a bold and ambitious Government, but the economic and social benefits are clear. If taken forward, they could be the first steps towards transport infrastructure that works better for business and better for Britain.”
London First commissioned Survation to poll 500 London business leaders online. Fieldwork took place August 28 – September 5, 2019.
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