Infrastructure first, say business leaders

Business leaders in the North of England would like to see more investment in physical infrastructure than high speed broadband, according to a research report by the Business Growth Fund (BGF).

Physical: Improvements to roads, rail and airports are placed above high speed broadband as a priority. Picture: bruce rollinson

The report found that over twice as many business leaders, 69 per cent, in the North claim that improved roads, rail and airport expansion would provide more benefit to UK businesses than investing in high-speed broadband, 31 per cent.

Andy Gregory, regional director-North, BGF, said: “Small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, bringing much needed jobs and prosperity, but they depend on infrastructure to grow.

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“We can see from our latest index that businesses in the North, while united in recognising the importance of investing in physical infrastructure, want this investment to be evenly spread across the UK and bring direct benefits to the companies close to home.”

Mr Gregory told The Yorkshire Post that there was a “growing awareness” among business leaders of the benefits of having an improved physical infrastructure.

He added that the results aren’t necessarily an indicator that businesses are ignoring the importance of the internet and that each business attaches importance to digital according to its own specific needs.

Businesses believe that Government could do more when it comes to infrastructure development, said Mr Gregory.

He added: “The debate around the Northern Powerhouse has raised the profile.”

Despite this, opinion is divided among Northern business leaders on the value of HS2, the planned high speed railway that will link London with Birmingham and cities in the North West and Yorkshire.

Half of Northern business leaders believe that HS2 is good for British business, with 40 per cent disagreeing, and one in 10 remaining undecided. Nationally, 60 per cent of business leaders agree that the high speed railway will benefit British business.

Jonathan Oxley, chair of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The North of England needs a greater share of resource in both transport and broadband infrastructure.

“Surveys of IoD members show that nearly 10 times as many think HS2 will benefit London most as opposed to Yorkshire. Almost twice as many would prefer more resources to go into exiting inter-city links and commuter rail networks as opposed to HS2.”