Industry's confidence in UK infrastructure declining

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Government urged to finish the job on roads as part of Autumn Statement boost

Key findings:

  • Third of companies view motorways and A road network as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’
  • Road network viewed as having declined in last two years
  • Almost two thirds of companies place investment in strategic roads as a priority
  • Call for permanent Infrastructure Authority
  • 40% of companies view broadband networks as poor
  • 28% of companies put investment in international air connectivity as top 3 priority
  • Creation of integrated transport networks continues to fail

Britain’s manufacturers are calling on the government to introduce an urgent boost to investment in the UK’s crumbling road network, as part of a package of infrastructure measures in the forthcoming Autumn Statement.

The call was made by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation on the back of a survey showing deteriorating confidence in wide areas of UK infrastructure networks, especially the road system. The survey also showed a continued failure to make significant progress towards creating integrated transport networks, whilst the UK’s digital communications networks and energy supply scored poorly.

Commenting, EEF Chief Executive, Terry Scuoler, said:

“These results highlight widespread concern that the quality of business critical infrastructure is declining rather than improving, with the deterioration of the road network of particular concern. Roads are the backbone of the economy and the glue that holds the rest of the transport network together, with four-fifths of manufacturers saying they are critical to their business operations. Similar concerns exist about our energy and digital networks.

“The message from manufacturers to the Chancellor for the remainder of this Parliament is clear, complete the job on vital roads, energy and broadband projects. As far as Industry is concerned these are far more important than redirecting planning resources to new aspirational projects.”

According to the survey, over a third of companies view the motorway and A road network as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ while almost 40% of companies view their local road network in the same way. Furthermore, roughly the same number of companies believe both the strategic, and local, road networks have got worse over the last couple of years.

As a result, over two thirds of companies would put investment in the motorway and A road network in their top three priorities (30% their top priority) and almost 40% of companies their local road network (10% their top priority).

The survey also backed EEF’s call for a permanent Infrastructure Authority with just under 60% of companies viewing the UK’s attempts at integrating different transport networks as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, while not a single company viewed integrated networks as ‘very good’.

Increasing air capacity is also important for manufacturers with almost a third of companies placing boosting international air connectivity in their top three priorities. 97% of export-intensive companies view aviation networks as ‘critical’ or ‘important’ (over 50% ‘critical’). 

Manufacturers also viewed the UK’s energy network in a poor light with over a quarter describing the network as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ with almost 15% of companies believing the situation has got worse in the last two years.

The survey also shows more needs to be done to improve the UK’s digital communications networks with 40% of companies viewing the broadband network as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. In response, 45% of companies would have investment in the broadband network in their top three priorities (almost 15% their top one).

Businesses are increasingly reliant on digital communication networks such as broadband internet to maintain existing customer and supplier relationships such as supporting maintenance and servicing activities. Manufacturers report that the current high speed broadband programme is being rolled out at a slow pace with poor communication and a lack of clarity on when upgrades will take place. A more hands on approach is needed in the remainder of this Parliament to provide certainty on when investments will be made.

In response EEF is making the following recommendations:

  • Complete the job in reforming the Highways Agency to guarantee the promised three-fold increase in road investment.
  • Bring forward solutions to road projects left on the ‘too difficult’ list for too long including upgrades to the A303, A1 and improved connectivity to regional airports.
  • Commit to establishing a permanent UK Infrastructure Authority as soon as possible to help identify long term infrastructure needs, improve integration between transport networks and, develop analysis in a more transparent way to better gain public trust for major infrastructure projects.
  • Recognise the rapidly deteriorating state of the local road network, which has a large and rapidly increasing £12bn road maintenance backlog, and outline a more detailed plan of action to tackle the issue.
  • Amend the Infrastructure Bill to establish the Airports Commission as a fixed body until an Aviation National Policy Statement is designated in the next Parliament.
  • Government must commit to supporting the growing digital economy by ensuring the whole of the UK is covered by high speed broadband and effective mobile networks as soon as possible


Media Team 020 7654 1576

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