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More than two-thirds of the UK’s manufacturers believe the country’s infrastructure has deteriorated over the past decade, affecting their capacity to do business, according to the sector’s main trade body.

The government should prioritise investment in roads and 5G broadband, according to more than 60 per cent of the 150 respondents to a survey by Make UK. Upgrades to local rail infrastructure were also seen as a pressing issue.

The study found that 68 per cent of companies said the state of the UK’s national infrastructure had worsened in the last 10 years, while 57 per cent complained local networks had deteriorated over the same time period.

Mike Thornton, partner and head of manufacturing at audit firm RSM, which helped carry out the survey, said that infrastructure quality was one of the key criteria for businesses when choosing where to set up, alongside a country’s tax and regulatory framework and access to skills. “Manufacturers have made their needs clear and infrastructure must be a priority,” he added.

The findings follow calls last week for greater spending on transport, energy and water networks by the National Infrastructure Commission, a government advisory board. In only its second five-yearly assessment, the NIC called for a sharp increase in infrastructure investment from an average of £55bn annually to £80bn per year in the 2030s, with more than half coming from the private sector.

The Make UK survey, however, found that its members believed that “infrastructure changes should be delivered by the state to ensure that agents of the economy can perform as efficiently as possible”. 

More than half of respondents said local authorities should be given responsibility for infrastructure investment as they would “likely have a better view of what is working in their areas”.

The calls for more investment follow recent government cuts to major rail and road projects.

Road works
The AIA found that on average local roads were now being resurfaced less than once every century © Paul Maguire/Alamy

Earlier this month the government axed plans to build the northern leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line between Birmingham and Manchester. There are also doubts about whether the southern section between Birmingham and London will run into the planned terminus in the centre of the capital at Euston after the government said it would only be built if it could be financed through private investment.

In March, the government also announced delays to a number of road schemes, including a £9bn road tunnel under the Thames, known as the Lower Thames Crossing, the £320mn A27 Arundel bypass and the £250mn Rimsrose Valley bypass in Liverpool.

Although the government pledged earlier this month to invest up to £8bn in tackling potholes, a report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance earlier this year said the backlog of repairs was the highest it had been, while “structural conditions continue to decline”. 

The AIA found that 11 per cent of the local road network across England and Wales was considered to be in poor condition and likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months. It added that on average local roads were now being resurfaced less than once every century.

Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association, said that although the government was “constantly churning out strategies and road maps highlighting the importance of infrastructure for economic growth, productivity and competitiveness, it doesn’t actually deliver on the improvements.”

Earlier this year, a study by the Resolution Foundation said the cost of reversing the under-investment in infrastructure since the 1970s would be the equivalent of 1.6 per cent of GDP annually over the next two decades, or about £40bn a year.

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