FT: Julian Glover discusses the importance of infrastructure

‘A magic word can be comforting in dark times. Right now, that word is infrastructure. Today’s Autumn Statement clutched at the muscular promise of a can-do tomorrow in which traffic jams are busted and broadband unblocked.

 Everyone nods when told Britain needs to do more for infrastructure. So it was today when Philip Hammond, the chancellor, promised a national productivity investment fund, reeling off hundreds of millions for digital railway signalling, access to housing and pinch points on roads. He also offered to increase infrastructure investment to 1-1.2 per cent of gross domestic product from 2020, up from 0.8 per cent today, a target whose worth can only be judged by what happens to the economy during Brexit and which will certainly be forgotten if that proves awkward.

Nonetheless, the direction of policy is clear and right. Britain’s infrastructure is not always bad but much of it is old and stretched, dependent on roads and railways put in place before the word was even invented — Winston Churchill was the first to use it, sceptically, in parliament in 1950. The physical support for every aspect of human and economic life does need more attention. There are no end of league tables that suggest others do it better.’


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