Rail joins housing as top infrastructure priorities for Britons

Ipsos MORI publishes new research which finds rail infrastructure to be a growing priority for the British public.

The author(s)

  • Ben Marshall Public Affairs
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  • Rail infrastructure – new tracks and stations – is among the public’s top priorities for investment in infrastructure in Britain, along with new housing supply and flood defences; it has moved from third to top spot among a list of ten
  • Key finding from the second Global Infrastructure Index conducted by Ipsos MORI across 28 countries
  • Rail infrastructure is given much higher priority in Britain than in other G8 countries
  • Ratings for current rail infrastructure is lower in Britain than globally while use is higher
  • While recent journeys on overground rail are rated more positively than car journeys, rail’s value for money ratings compare poorly to G8 and global averages

Ipsos MORI publishes new research which finds rail infrastructure to be a growing priority for the British public.

The survey – the second of its kind across 28 countries including Britain and undertaken last month – comes alongside Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s recent announcement of £300m investment in rail in the north of England to enhance the connectivity of HS2 and the National Infrastructure Commission’s publication of its interim National Infrastructure Assessment.

Ipsos MORI found 46% of Britons choosing tracks and stations from a list as priorities for investment, ahead of new housing supply (43%) and flood defences (38%). These were last year’s top three, but rail was in third place a year ago.

Along with new housing supply, rail infrastructure is given higher priority in Britain relative to other G8 countries. In Britain, 38% rate the quality of rail as very/fairly good, compared to 51% in France and 60% in Japan (it is, though, 29% in Italy).

The higher priority given to investing in rail infrastructure compared to other countries does not reflect experience. Seven in ten (69%) rate the experience on their last journey positively, higher than the global average of six in ten (62%). However, British rail users are significantly more negative about the value for money of their last journey.

The survey also finds water supply and sewerage a low priority for investment. Three-quarters (74%) rate this positively in Britain, higher than every other country with the exception of Germany. In addition to rail, British ratings of housing supply are lower than the global average – 28% rate the quality of this as very/fairly good, compared to 50% in France and 60% in the United States (it is, though, 28% in Italy and 30% in Germany).

59% of Britons agree 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.

Northerners are more likely than the national average to rate the motorway and the local road network as poor while satisfaction with rail infrastructure is also relatively low.

Ratings of rail are higher in London where 45% are positive about the current quality of tracks and stations but, despite this, it is identified as a priority for investment by a higher proportion in the capital than elsewhere. As in 2016, Londoners are especially critical of the quality of housing supply.

The survey also finds more of the public of the view that their area does not get its fair share of Britain’s investment in infrastructure than do. This view is more strongly felt in Britain than in most other countries. 37% think investment is unfair compared to 23% who take the opposite view with 39% unsure either way (including don’t knows). Those living in the North of England, the South West and Wales have a particularly strong sense of unfairness, with London the only part of Britain more positive than negative.

My local area gets its fair share of Britain's investment in infrastructure % agree % disagree
Britain (1,004) 23 37
North & Yorkshire (108) 16 52
sw & wales (133) 17 53
North west (95) 19 47
Midlands (141) 20 38
Scotland (62) 24 35
SE & Anglia (226) 27 32
London (181) 32 19


Commenting on the findings, Ben Marshall, Research Director for Infrastructure at Ipsos MORI, said:

Our second Global Infrastructure Index – the public view on infrastructure – 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.

Technical note

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,004 adults aged 16-65 across Britain (21,043 globally), online, between 25 August – 8 September 2017. Data is weighted to the known population profile.
  • The global study involved the same survey being conducted via Ipsos Global @dvisor in 28 countries including Britain (samples sizes were either 500 or 1,000 in each country): Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. Data is weighted to known population profiles.
  • Data tables are available on request
  • The 2016 survey results can be found here

The author(s)

  • Ben Marshall Public Affairs

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