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Swavesey interchange on the A14

Swavesey interchange on the A14

Recent results from the major publicly quoted contractors suggest that the growth in new infrastructure construction activity has gathered momentum over the summer. Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Costain have all pointed to the growth of construction in road and rail work as increases in spending take effect and as work gets underway on national projects such as High Speed 2.

Thanks to an improving picture in infrastructure and utilities projects, the latest Glenigan Index suggests the upturn extends across the wider industry. Glenigan Construction data shows civil engineering starts rose by 15% in the quarter to August, compared to the period a year ago.

Strong pipeline

Balfour Beatty pointed to the strong pipeline of major infrastructure projects in transport and energy at its interim results in August. The company says that a combination of High Speed 2, new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point C and Wylfa, smart motorways for Highways England and the third runway at Heathrow airport should help the Government reach its target for infrastructure investment of 1% of gdp by 2020-21.

Balfour Beatty is working on the UK’s largest road contract on the A14 widening in Cambs and it sees good opportunities for growth in the roads sector in the light of the £35 billion of funding for Highways England’s first and second roads strategies. The firm has recently won a Highways England smart motorway package to upgrade sections of the M4 (Jcts. 3-12).

Morgan Sindall has also been busier in the sector. Revenues at its infrastructure business rose by 12% to £320 million in the first half of 2018. Morgan Sindall has an infrastructure order book worth £1,309 million focused on aviation, highways, rail, nuclear, energy and water. It is currently working at Heathrow Airport’ Alpha North taxiway as part of the Q6 framework and it has recently completed work on the A1(M) and on the Edinburgh to Glasgow line for Network Rail.

Smart infrastructure

Costain also sounded an upbeat note on infrastructure construction prospects when it reported improved profits and a £3.7 billion order book, with more than 90% of it repeat business. The company is seeking to carve out a niche for itself as a provider of ‘smart infrastructure solutions’, using integrated technology. It recently won a contract for Network Rail to develop new technology to cut accidents at level crossings which will be rolled out over the next five years.

Costain hopes to take advantage of trends identified in the recent National Infrastructure Assessment which envisages nearly all new UK vehicle sales being electric by 2030. It sees so-called ‘connected and autonomous’ vehicles and their enabling infrastructure as a growing market which could be worth around £11 billion pa in the UK by 2030.

Tender opportunities are also likely to be bolstered by political pressure for more investment in infrastructure. The latest National Infrastructure Assessment also calls for a national broadband plan, a national network of charging points for electric vehicles and a boost to funding for major cities of £43 billion over the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, the CBI has recently called for an increase in local transport funding to prevent some regions being disadvantaged in a “two speed England” and for the creation of an infrastructure committee to operate across Whitehall.

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