London's infrastructure lags behind world's major cities

Infrastructure and digital connectivity in London fails to meet expectations when placed against a global background, new research has shown.

More than 1,600 Londoners, business leaders and councillors in the capital were surveyed to gauge London’s international competitiveness. Transport, housing and digital connectivity were the top three areas thought to be furthest behind expectations in new research by ComRes for the London Chamber of Commerce.

Almost half of councillors (46 per cent) believed transport infrastructure lagged behind other cities, while 37 per cent of business leaders and 32 per cent of Londoners shared the same view. Digital connectivity was a concern with more than 40 per cent of both councillors and businesses leaders flagging it up as an area that needs improvement.

A total of £1.3tr of investment is required to deliver the infrastructure projects planned up to 2025, according to the Mayor’s London Infrastructure Plan from last year, but there is currently a funding deficit of more than £130bn, the research said.

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our research has found that an uncertain political environment, planning red tape and the costs associated with delivery all serve to stop the private sector investing in and delivering the critical infrastructure improvements our city needs to remain internationally competitive.

Those surveyed called for more private investment to fund transport infrastructure projects, broadband coverage and mobile reception, schools and colleges, and new affordable housing. Business leaders identified costs of the projects (62 per cent), limited appetite from the treasury to provide grants (47 per cent) and complicated planning restrictions (45 per cent) as the main barriers to delivering major infrastructure projects.

“To really improve the infrastructure of our city – not just roads and tubes, but schools, homes and digital connectivity as well – Government and the Mayor must make it easier for private investors to put their money into these projects. Investment can’t just be attracted and then ignored, or even obstructed, but must be actively channelled,” said Stanbridge.

The development of London City Airport came up as an example of city infrastructure that needed large-scale private investment.

Patrick Burrows, chief financial officer of London City Airport, said: “The government must make a decision to allow an increase in airport capacity or the London economy will suffer, however we recognise that any new runway solution is unlikely to be implemented until the late 2020s and believe that better use of existing airport capacity must be made in the interim period.”

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