Chris Jackson, Head of Infrastructure, Burges Salmon

Welcome to this latest research from Burges Salmon on UK infrastructure, in which we focus on the priorities and challenges for private investment into the sector. We have spoken to many influential thought leaders in UK infrastructure investment and we are pleased to share their views and proposals for the way forward. These views will be published as a series of interviews, released each week from 15 September 2020. We thank all of those people who have given us their time and shared their insight.

The last twelve months have seen unprecedented challenges for the UK and its economy. Following Boris Johnson’s general election victory at the end of 2019, the Prime Minister immediately set out extensive plans for investments into the country’s infrastructure, promising “the biggest revival of our infrastructure since the Victorians”. Since then, he gave the go-ahead for HS2, the UK’s new high-speed rail network, and committed £5 billion to new investment in buses and bicycles. Record amounts of investment for Britain’s roads, railways, broadband, housing and research were then announced in the budget.

Shortly afterwards the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK took hold and lockdown soon followed, righty taking government and industry focus away from infrastructure finance and delivery in the short term. However, the UK’s infrastructure need has not diminished and the government has identified the sector as being key to our economic recovery.

The Prime Minister has put jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the government’s economic growth strategy, promising a “New Deal” and to “build, build, build” to upgrade our infrastructure and skills. Funding has been announced to speed up the construction of homes and infrastructure. A new Acceleration Unit has been created to join the Department for Transport and tackle delays to transport infrastructure projects. New research carried out for the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission shows how sharp declines in the cost of renewable generation mean that Britain can aim for renewables to meet two-thirds of electricity needs by 2030.

These initiatives have been widely welcomed, though the next step will be to give investors more clarity around the role that private finance can play in this ‘infrastructure revolution’. We still await the government’s promised National Infrastructure Strategy and the detail behind its spending and plans. Since the sale of the Green Investment Bank and following the end of PFI/PF2 in this country, the government has yet to set out its new vision for working with the wall of private sector cash that is keen to support public policy and provide much-needed funding to long-term infrastructure projects.

The insight of those contributing to our research will be of increased relevance and require even more focused debate following the COVID-19 crisis.

What emerges from our interviews is significant appetite within the private sector to engage with the government after a period of political and economic uncertainty and active policy discussion about the balance between risk and reward. Investors are now hopeful of more direction around their participation in infrastructure, a clear framework for delivery of the net zero agenda, the identification of priority projects, an effective long-term investment model and new public funds becoming available to leverage private investment in new asset classes like cleantech.

We hope the forthcoming policies and commitment will address some of these issues, and that positive times are ahead for the UK infrastructure market, for the next five years and beyond.

In the meantime, we hope that you find our interviews informative and that they contribute to stimulating debate and discussion on this important topic. If you would like to find out more please contact Chris Jackson.

To receive the interviews direct to your inbox along with the latest infrastructure news, insights and event invitations, subscribe to our infrastructure interest area.

To join the conversation on social media, use #ViewsOnInfra.

Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson
Head of Infrastructure, Burges Salmon

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