Industry lays down the key issues for 2017

We asked a selection of infrastructure's key leaders to give us their top three issues for the coming year. Here are the highlights. The answers in full can be found in the January/February print issue of Infrastructure Intelligence.

Stephen Tarr, managing director for major projects, Balfour Beatty

Should we be optimistic?

Government’s £24 billion productivity fund and promise to invest 1.0-1.2% of GDP per annum in infrastructure, demonstrate an on-going commitment to the UK’s pipeline of projects. Industry still awaits Royal Assent for HS2, plus government's vote on Heathrow and further plans for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. But 2016 closed with mega projects a step or two closer to being formalised. With investments made in strategic roads and nuclear new-build and decommissioning, we have good reasons to be optimistic.


Malcolm Bairstow

Malcolm Bairstow, infrastructure sector leader, EY

Foreign investment

EY’s recent UK investment Attractiveness Survey identified five priorities for UK trade. High on the list was improved infrastructure – obvious perhaps, but the devil is in the detail: Different sectors have specific needs. Manufacturers want roads and ports, whereas the service sector and tech companies need airports and telecoms. More than ever, to attract foreign investment, we need an integrated infrastructure plan which addresses future resilience, not just short term priorities and one which comprises solidly investible, quality programmes and projects.

Ian Liddell

Ian Liddell, UK head of development, WSP

Will Brexit uncertainty delay investment decisions?

We hope not, but can understand the temptation. We can ill afford delays to infrastructure that will boost the economy and help to deliver housing, aligned with an Industrial Strategy. Of course, we cannot rush into investment decisions prematurely either. Many proposals await requisite studies, design development and business cases. So if government is tempted to hold back on investments, it should at least get to the stage where well-informed decisions can be made.

Patricia Moore

Patricia Moore, managing director of infrastructure, Turner & Townsend


What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago serious questions still hung over three mega projects – Hinkley Point C, HS2 and Heathrow’s third runway. But with all three “H’s” now confirmed, the question mark has shifted to the industry’s capacity. Does it have the skills, people and funding to simultaneously deliver such huge projects?The short answer is not yet. Government funding alone won’t be enough for UK infrastructure to meet its biggest challenge in a generation. The industry must come together like never before; sharing best practice, collaborating across the supply chain and speaking with one voice. We must increase productivity, show we are capable of innovation and attract a new generation of talent if we are to succeed in the long-term.


Jason Millett

Jason Millett, chief operating officer for infrastructure, Mace

Productivity in construction

The UK currently has a pipeline of over £500bn of infrastructure projects, but also a construction industry with a recognised productivity problem. With so much work in the pipeline even relatively modest improvements in output per pound spent could have a tremendous impact on the national economy. By embracing technology, upskilling workers promoting careers in construction, and better communicating the benefits of infrastructure to local residents, we can improve the value of major infrastructure schemes in the UK.

Nick Roberts

Nick Roberts, chief executive officer, UK & Europe, Atkins

Is 2017 the year we finally solve the housing crisis? 

Housebuilding remains a priority for national and local governments, but traditional approaches are not delivering enough homes fast enough. It’s a market crying out for a disruptor; a different way of doing things. Off-site manufacture is gaining political traction and offers the potential to build flexible, affordable homes quickly. With financial incentives, ongoing planning reform and initiatives to unlock public land, 2017 could be the year for housing.