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Flood defences fall down list of public's investment priorities

This year, 38% of Britons rated flood defences as a priority, whereas last year the figure was 45%. This 7% fall in concern is larger than the 5% drop seen for housing supply, which last year was rated by 48% of people as a priority for investment, but this year that had decreased to 43%.

Meanwhile, rail infrastructure has risen as a priority from 44% to 46%, meaning it is now the type of infrastructure uppermost in people’s minds for investment.

The second Global Infrastructure Index also shows 30% of Britons rate the quality of flood defences as very or fairly good, which is the same rating given in the US. This compares to 48% in Germany, 35% in France, but ahead of Japan’s 29% in Japan and Italy's 12%.

The Index findings were published in a relatively calm period for the UK. There have been no floods in the UK of a magnitude comparable to the ones that swept Lancashire and Yorkshire on Boxing Day 2015, just weeks after Storm Desmond swamped Cumbria and parts of Scotland and Wales.

And in September, a report by the Committee on Climate Change found most of the UK’s flood alleviation schemes are reducing flood risk households to low or moderate levels (Flood Briefing 6 Sept 17)

However, the Met Office warned in July (Flood Briefing 26 July 17) that England and Wales face a 1 in 3 chance of a new monthly rainfall record like 2015’s Storm Desmond during the winter months.

Attitudes to flood infrastructure contrast with those to water supply and sewerage. Most Britons appear to be happy with the current quality of water supply and sewerage infrastructure, with 74% of people rating the UK’s as very or fairly good, higher than every other country with the exception of Germany. Nevertheless, investment levels in water supply and sewerage infrastructure rose as a priority, from 17% in 2016 to 20% this year.

The second Global Infrastructure Index was conducted by Ipsos MORI across 28 countries. Overall, 59% of Britons agreed that we are not doing enough as a country to meet our infrastructure needs and 74% are of the view that investment in infrastructure is vital to future economic growth. Both of these are little changed since 2016.

Commenting on the findings, Ben Marshall, research director for infrastructure at Ipsos MORI, said: "Our second Global Infrastructure Index finds little has changed over the past twelve months. The British still think investment in infrastructure is vital to future economic growth and there remains a sense that we are not doing enough to meet needs.

But it does show an uptick in the salience of rail infrastructure. This is likely to reflect British reliance on rail – we’re more dependent on rail to get around than many other countries – and also inferior ratings here of the current quality of tracks and stations compared to elsewhere, including Germany, the US, France and Japan."

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