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Black Cat roundabout on the new £1.4 billion 10-mile dual carriageway on the A428

Prospects for civil engineering contractors are improving thanks partly to an increase in spending on major roads projects around the country. A series of major new Highways England contracts are out for consultation and contractors should benefit from construction work starting on some significant projects in coming months.

Recent headlines have been dominated by the Welsh government’s decision to abandon plans for a £1.4 billion M4 relief road around Newport. But elsewhere, the signs are that the increase in spending under the government’s £15 billion Road Investment Strategy (RIS) to improve motorways and major ‘A’ roads is starting to materialise.

Highways Agency spending on capital enhancements is set to increase from £1.79 bn in 2018/19 to £2.23 bn in 2019/20 and to £3.11 bn in 2020/21 (the first year of period 2 of the RIS).

Reinforcing prospects

The growth in roads spending should reinforce prospects in the infrastructure sector. Glenigan Construction data shows that the value of underlying starts in the sector rose 51% in the four months up to April 2019, compared to the period a year earlier. Planning approvals for infrastructure projects were up 13% over the same period.

Some major new highways projects should help keep the industry busy in the second half of this year.

Tenders have been returned and work is set to start this autumn on a £64.5 million Highways England programme of improvements to jct 10 of the M6 motorway. Mott MacDonald is a consultant on the project where construction work is set to run for 24 months (Glenigan Project ID: 15408407).

Construction work is also set to start later this year on the £189.5 million East-West Link Road for Lancashire County Council where Costain is the contractor and work will continue for around 48 months (Glenigan Project ID: 16237921).

Medium term workload

Some major schemes in the pipeline should help sustain the industry’s medium term workload. Highways England is working on plans to fully dual the remaining single carriageway sections of the A66 northern trans-Pennine route – a key regional link between Cumbria and north Yorkshire – covering some 18 miles. Tenders are set to be invited this autumn on the £1 billion scheme with work set to start in summer 2020 (Glenigan Project ID: 17343745).

Highways England has also recently launched a consultation on a major new road scheme to improve links in the Midlands between the M54 and M6 and relieve traffic congestion on the A460 and other roads. A new route will include a two-lane dual carriageway link road and improved motorway junctions. Plans have recently been submitted on the £112 million scheme with work set to start in early 2021 (Glenigan Project ID: 90210685).

Meanwhile, a consultation has recently been launched by Highways England on a new £1.4 billion 10-mile dual carriageway on the A428 which would replace the only remaining section of single carriageway between Milton Keynes and Cambridge and a congestion blackspot. Construction work on the scheme, which includes major improvements to the Black Cat roundabout, is set to start in 2022 (Glenigan Project ID: 14433542).

In the South West, two huge roads schemes are at the pre-tender stage. The construction of the A358 Taunton to Southfields dual carriageway, worth £500 million, is set to get underway early next year (Glenigan Project ID: 14432356). Meanwhile, work on the dualling of the A417 missing link near Gloucester, also worth £500 million, is set to start in late 2021 (Glenigan Project ID: 14432358).