By Max Clarke

Swift investment in the UK’s ageing infrastructure is needed in order to boost competitiveness and kick start economic recovery, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.

Research by the business organisation, in partnership with KPMG, confirmed that the UK’s infrastructure is worse than other EU countries. Last year’s World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report placed the UK 33rd for quality of infrastructure, alongside Slovenia and behind Tunisia and Cyprus. But competitors France and Germany both made the top ten.

“This survey paints a disturbing picture,” said the CBI’s Director-General, John Cridland. “Firms across the country say that the infrastructure they depend on every working day is just not good enough and is stifling growth. High quality infrastructure swings boardroom decisions when companies are looking where to invest, and pays dividends in terms of future jobs and growth. “

“The UK is still a long way down the international infrastructure league table and languishes behind key competitors. So, if we are serious about boosting exports - especially in emerging markets - and achieving sustainable growth, the Government must put infrastructure investment firmly at the top of its agenda.

“We need ministerial decisions that get spades in the ground and people working now. There are large amounts of business capital waiting to be unlocked if the Government achieves a step-change on transport, for example with the introduction of road tolls. Capital investment must return to pre-recession levels at the earliest opportunity."

Today’s report, called Making the right connections: CBI/KPMG infrastructure survey 2011, assesses the state of the UK’s infrastructure and highlights how critical quality infrastructure is to companies’ decisions about where to invest and their ability to compete.

Half of companies think the UK’s transport network has got worse in the last five years, while less than a fifth (18%) say it has got better. Nine in ten express concern about the security of energy supply over the next ten years.

The link to sustained economic recovery is clear, as the survey shows, most companies rank the quality and reliability of energy (81%) and transport (81%) infrastructure as significant or very significant to future investment decisions.

The Government’s own National Infrastructure Plan acknowledges that £200bn of infrastructure investment is needed in the next five years alone, with 70% expected to come from the private sector.

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