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Thu September 24 2020

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CBI calls for investment in road-building

9 Nov 11 Future growth for the UK will depend on investment in infrastructure, the CBI director-general, John Cridland, told a conference yesterday.

He said that recovering from the recession would be a "lengthy, challenging process", but added that infrastructure investment could offer avenues for growth.

He stated that he was not advocating "Keynesian hole-digging" but "overdue action to get our roads, rail, ports, energy and housing infrastructure up to scratch".

The director-general stated that such investment could have a significant multiplier effect on the economy. "Every £1 spent on construction increases GDP by £2.84. For some of the best transport schemes, this can rise to as high as £10."

"We need a clear schedule for the delivery of major projects, and a strategy that sets out how public investment in infrastructure can be returned to 2.25 per cent of GDP."

Meanwhile, a report by Arup and the RAC Foundation indicates that almost one hundred high-value road schemes, that could be implemented relatively quickly, are sitting on the shelf waiting for funds.

The report – Providing and Funding Strategic Roads – identifies 96 different motorway and main road projects which have been assessed by officials to have high benefit/cost ratios but for which there is no cash to proceed.

The funding shortfall is at least £12.8 billion and the majority of the schemes would be the responsibility of the Highways Agency, though a large minority would come under local authority control.

By contrast, the Agency’s investment budget stretches to only £2.3 billion over the four years to 2014/15.

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Many of the 96 schemes have exceptionally strong business cases, delivering more than five pounds of economic benefits for every pound invested, and the top ten schemes all give more than six pound of benefits for every pound spent.

Typically the projects are not new routes or megaprojects, but localised interventions at key bottlenecks; bypasses, widening projects and junction improvements.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “This research will worry drivers and should concern government. With ministers talking up the need for infrastructure investment they should turn their attention to the offices of the Department for Transport where there are scores of schemes which deserve to be built.

“Congestion is set to increase dramatically in the coming years and these projects could make real differences to the lives of individuals and the economic needs of the country.

“If there are scarce resources to be spent on transport then a fair share should be spent on the roads. Where there isn’t a ready source of public funds then ministers should speed up the process of encouraging private investment in new capacity, something they have already promised to do.”

Alexander Jan, transaction director with Arup added: “There is a real opportunity for central Government to look closely at what has worked internationally in getting essential infrastructure funded and delivered. Part of that solution needs to be about giving local and regional government the opportunity to help get important infrastructure funded through tried and tested methods available from abroad. Such an approach should be entirely consistent with the ministers’ localism agenda.”

The report also reveals how, many other countries are far outstripping the UK in providing the road infrastructure required to keep a nation on the move.

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