Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, chief executive of ACE, has chaired an open forum at ACE’s annual conference that discussed the capacity restraints on delivering new infrastructure.
Terry Morgan, chairman of Crossrail, told delegates that the largest civil engineering project in Europe was changing the shape of London already.
He explained that one of the problems faced with Crossrail was getting across the huge complexities in a project of such scale. But he said that if it went well it would prove to be a huge credit to the industry. It will, he said, add to the great reputation that the sector deserves.
In setting out the scale of the project, he stressed the huge skills base needed for such a large infrastructure and tunnelling project, with real shortages of young people coming through to take on that work when the older generation retires. This would be a particular problem where particular techniques or technologies have not been used enough in recent years to learn by doing.
Philip Dilley, group chairman at Arup, highlighted some key positives to the significance of infrastructure at present. He said that there was an obvious benefit in regards to developing infrastructure creating very immediate jobs. He also noted that it goes on to leave a very real asset legacy that can be of real and tangible value in comparison to other stimuli.
Mr Dilley added that there was also a real positive for the sector in that it was not recognised by government as being core to their plans for the country. He said that David Cameron and Nick Clegg had spoken about it extensively and that George Osborne had included it extensively in his spending plans.
Alan Cousins of Infrastructure UK drew attention to the National Infrastructure Plan. He said that there was a pipeline put in place that would generate significant activity over time. And he noted the issues around skills across the country, saying that government and industry had to come together to meet that challenge too.
Mr Cousins then spoke about efforts to deliver alternative forms of funding such as the use of guarantees to allow the deployment of new financial capacity from sources such as pension funds. He added that there was also a lot of work being done to work out how to facilitate the environmental influence playing its role through the planning process.
Asked about the impetus for industry to meet the skills gap soon, Terry Morgan said that there was no legal requirement to build a skills academy. The organisation recognised the need to do so and so found a location in Newham to take in students and start to build long term capacity that are needed not just for Crossrail but for further projects beyond.
Author: Editor Gavin Pearson (email@example.com or 0207 202 0255)