British Chambers of Commerce says promised investment in infrastructure is delivered too slowly
The British Chambers of Commerce has called for urgent action to kickstart transport projects that could boost the economy by billions of pounds.
The body’s report on transport priorities, which tracks progress on 13 top projects, argues that £30bn of spending on plans ranging from Crossrail to the Forth replacement bridge would generate £86bn for the economy. However, the BCC argues that successive governments have damaged business by being slow to invest.
Adam Marshall, the BCC’s director of policy, said: “Transport infrastructure is critical to business growth but progress on the investment promised by successive governments continues to be too slow. Whenever key decisions to improve capacity on the country’s rail, road and air networks are delayed, our businesses and economy are missing out.
“We need bold action from the government to improve the UK’s transport infrastructure. This kind of investment is insulated from global uncertainty, and it creates short-term confidence, jobs in the medium term, and improves the UK’s competitiveness in the long term.
“Ministers must use all the powers at their disposal to kickstart these projects. In some cases, that will mean using the government’s balance sheet to unlock private funding, and in others, it will mean using planning powers to overcome objectives and speed the process of construction.”
The transport minister Norman Baker countered that the government was embarking on a “massive programme of investment – the biggest since the 19th century”. He said: “Making sure that the country has the transport network it needs to deliver economic growth is a top priority for us. That is why – despite the economic challenges we face – we have committed to building High Speed 2, a hugely ambitious infrastructure project which will support and sustain long term growth across the whole country.”
Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, argued: “[The BCC] report is further evidence of the government’s failure to deliver the infrastructure investment we need to create jobs and growth and strengthen our economy for the future. This dithering, delay and lack of leadership in the Treasury has led to widespread uncertainty for investors.”
A survey by the accounting firm KPMG found that tax incentives for capital investment in infrastructure are seen as a key driver of growth among big businesses.
Chris Morgan, head of tax policy at KPMG in the UK, said: “Our survey suggests that such a move would have a real and lasting impact on jobs and capital investment in the country.”
Among the stalled projects the BCC report highlighted are a third Heathrow runway, cancelled by the coalition government, and work on the A14, which is not due to begin until 2018.
Six other projects are on hold or under discussion, it said, including improvements to the M4 in Wales and key stations on the east coast mainline.