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Bad timing

Far be it from Construction News to suggest that government departments are prone to a little media manipulation at times.

However, while the eyes of the transport press were firmly fixed on the unravelling of Network Rail’s ambitious development programme late last week, the Cabinet Office’s ever-so-slightly Soviet sounding Major Projects Authority had an interesting report to publish.

It is, no doubt, purely coincidental that this report, which by the way questions the financial viability of one of the government’s most vital and divisive projects – HS2 – should emerge within hours of the transport secretary publicly bawling out Network Rail.

It is just a case of incredibly bad timing, at least for us members of the fourth estate, that it was released then, despite it already being three years old and only seeing the light of day thanks to the efforts of anti-HS2 campaigners.

Regardless of the timing, the project assessment review will have made some uncomfortable reading for those backing the new line, not least our new Tory government.

It warned that the project would be “unaffordable” when coupled with the Department for Transport’s other commitments, and said there was “a lack of a clear picture” over costs. All of which is likely to emboldened campaigners who may have feared that the line was now fait accompli.

One of the problems for David Cameron is that many of the opponents of HS2 come from within his own ranks. Many of the MPs who he needs to maintain his wafer-thin majority represent leafy seats whose constituents aren’t necessarily enamoured with the idea of a super-fast train hurtling through their English garden.

And there could be worse news for the PM this week, with Sir Howard Davies due to reveal his judgment on airport expansion on Wednesday.

If the white smoke that emerges from the commission led by Sir Howard favours Heathrow, there could be trouble, not least from Cameron’s erstwhile drinking buddy Boris Johnson, who has made no secret of his opposition to expanding the west London airport.

I suppose that the government must be hoping that, unlike London buses, transport trouble doesn’t come in threes.

Party time

It’s time to don your best frocks tomorrow night, as the cream of the construction industry rolls into town for the CN Awards. If you don’t know whether you’ve been nominated then I’m afraid you probably haven’t. But if you’re still unsure, a full list of finalists can be found here.

Construction News fully expects all eventual winners to be throwing some shapes by midnight.

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