Page last updated at 02:46 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Business demands better transport

Aerial view of Heathrow terminal
Traffic congestion both on the ground and in the air is costing money

The UK's "dilapidated" transport system is costing the economy money when it can least afford it, a new survey of British businesses concludes.

The survey of almost 2,700 businesses of all sizes states that congestion is driving up operating costs by 5.7bn.

The report says not only should a third runway be built at Heathrow, but the timeline needs to be accelerated.

The survey found that business also supports a high-speed north-south rail link and faster planning processes.

Major projects such as a third runway at Heathrow and a new high speed railway must not be put to one side but should be brought forward
British Chambers of Commerce transport survey

In the 12 months since it last commissioned an independent study of the impact of transport needs on business, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) says the cost of congestion now stands at 23.2bn, up 5.7bn from a year ago.

David Frost, director general of the BCC, said: "This survey highlights the need for a long-term strategy that is prepared to take drastic action to improve and upgrade our dilapidated transport networks.

"Transport is critical to the economy and in a time of economic downturn it is essential that our transport networks are up to the task."

The need for reliable air transport in and out of London's Heathrow was highlighted by businesses across the country rather than just in the southeast.

"Major projects such as a third runway at Heathrow and a new high speed railway must not be put to one side but should be brought forward," the report states.

Terminal 5 damage

The report found that two out of five businesses said the busy airport was important to their operation, whereas among larger companies, that rose to three out of five.

The report says the confusion and delays that accompanied the opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5 last March "did much to damage the UK's reputation as a place to come to or to do business in".

The BCC is calling for what Mr Frost described as an "urgent need for a complete revision of current transport policy".

"The UK's transport infrastructure is still built around its Victorian foundations," he said.

The report found that 78% of businesses would support the principle of road pricing, but only if public transport and road infrastructure were clearly improved as a result.

The report also found that employers are increasingly willing to implement policies that allow staff to work from home and take advantage of technological advances.



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