Infrastructure projects key to revival – business chiefs

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The Independent Online

Business leaders have urged the government to "get on with it" over improvements to the UK's infrastructure, including the highly controversial third runway at Heathrow, in order to salvage the economy.

Only 35 per cent of companies believe the coalition's policies will boost investment in infrastructure, says a report by the CBI and KPMG.

John Cridland, the head of the CBI, said there was too much talk and not enough action from the government.

"There are lots of new announcements but business people do not think this is leading to any change on the ground," said Mr Cridland.

Nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) of the 568 companies surveyed said the UK's infrastructure is less favourable than elsewhere in the European Union, and more than two-fifths (43 per cent) claimed it is worse than in other developed economies outside the EU.

Richard Threlfall, at KPMG, said: "Confidence in our infrastructure is ebbing away. Last year, 43 per cent [of businesses surveyed] thought the coalition would be able to deal with this, now that is down to 35 per cent."

However, there was some good news for the government, with its £40bn UK Guarantees scheme – unveiled in July to underwrite infrastructure projects – given a cautious thumbs-up as 60 per cent of respondents to the survey said it will help get diggers on the ground.

Mr Cridland said businesses had placed a shopping list of urgent infrastructure improvements in front of ministers, centring on the road network.

"We would like to see some projects of national importance super-fasttracked through the planning and funding processes," he said, adding that road improvements could be paid for by tolls. "I have long said we need a plan A-plus, and I can't see a more effective way of doing this than investing in infrastructure," he said.

The third runway at Heathrow remains at the front of UK plc's mind: "Aviation is a lagging indicator – we know it is politically difficult but they need to get on with that too."

The report by the CBI and KPMG found that many businesses saw the quality of the UK's infrastructure as being barely above that of an emerging market economy.

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