Belfast Telegraph

Majority of companies see interconnector as priority for NI economy

By John Mulgrew

Nearly 90% of businesses in Northern Ireland say securing the North-South interconnector is a major priority for the economy, according to a new survey.

The report by the CBI and global engineering company AECOM said nearly all business people regard an interconnector to guarantee the security of future energy supply as the main priority.

It also shows that the other priorities for businesses are roads, digital connectivity and energy.

But firms here were the least confident out of all the UK regions around road improvement during the course of this parliament.

And 40% of firms in Northern Ireland have concerns about the cost of infrastructure delivery.

Angela McGowan, CBI director in Northern Ireland, said: "Infrastructure is a key driver of productivity and living standards. Day in, day out, our businesses rely on our roads, railways and runways to move their goods, services and people up and down the country.

"However, it is a concern that over half of local businesses are dissatisfied with their region's infrastructure, or that confidence in the future is running low, especially when it comes to delivery, the key piece of the infrastructure puzzle.

"So our message is a simple one: at the end of the day, delivery is what matters. Businesses need clear, deliverable timetables for action on major projects in order for them to act as magnets for investment, growth and jobs."

More than half of those companies quizzed also believe more domestic flight connections to the rest of the UK remain critical.

Half of businesses believe that the delivery of the A6 dual carriageway upgrade scheme from Belfast to Londonderry is a critical infrastructure project.

"If we don't get spades in the ground on existing plans, it's clear we could put a major dent in the competitiveness of local business. This is something we cannot afford to do, especially during this period of uncertainty as the UK leaves the EU," Ms McGowan said.

The survey was conducted over eight weeks, ending on July 22, and included responses from 728 UK firms, including 58 from Northern Ireland.

The report comes as research claims that BT has been behind a £470m boost to the Northern Ireland economy in the past year, according to a study. The Economic Impact of BT and EE in the UK report reveals that it supported around 5,440 jobs through employment, spending with contractors and suppliers, and the spending of employees.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.