he headline figure will be what sticks in many people’s minds. £37billion of projects over the next two years. While many will welcome the certainty that this will bring our industry, we need to take a step back and explore what this means in practical terms for ACE members and the sector.
The analysis covers 340 individual procurement contracts across more than 260 individual projects and programmes over the next 18 months, with around £20 billion of that open for tender this year. To be clear the end goal is to increase transparency and build confidence in our sector, rather than identify new investments. Indeed, this is why most of the projects in the list will already be well-known to members, including Birmingham’s Curzon Street HS2 station, water investments under AMP7, new builds in the free schools programme and Manchester’s North West Quadrant.
In all, nearly two-thirds (60% or up to £22.3bn worth) are for economic infrastructure projects, with social infrastructure, utilities, defence all splitting the remainder fairly evenly (between up-to £4.7 and £5.3bn, or 13%-14% each respectively), so we’ve a series of projects which is starting to clearly reflect this Government’s views on infrastructure being the bedrock for further economic growth and essential to rebooting the economy.
Obviously, I hope all of this will be further cemented in upcoming announcements over the coming months – whether the expected extraordinary fiscal intervention this summer, or the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn.
For HS2 alone, there’s still plenty more that could be done. Movement on the London Euston section, more detail and a framework for announcements on sections 2a and 2b would be an easy next step to bring more certainty to our sector. Work on the East-West rail project could also be brought forward relatively easily. Equally, the long-anticipated programme to rebuild 40 hospitals feels like a political open-goal following the NHS’ collective response to combatting coronavirus.
This analysis by the IPA has mainly succeeded in its primary aim of delivering clarity on the work that will be available to members over the coming months and as such forms a key part of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC’s) Roadmap to Recovery.
While I welcome its publication we will need to return to the pipeline on an ongoing basis – perhaps as early as 2021– as the realities of waking our economy after a lengthy lockdown become apparent. We will need new projects if infrastructure and construction are to be the catalyst for recovery that the Government wants it to be.
Michael Lunn is Head of Public Affairs at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).