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CN Briefing: HS2; Hinkley; Theresa May; Heathrow; Chris Grayling

When Theresa May took over as prime minister she was faced with a big infrastructure challenge.

She had to reassure the construction sector that major public projects in the pipeline were safe after the vote to leave the EU, and demonstrate that her government could deliver. 

To do this, she had three early tests: South-east airport expansion; Hinkley Point C; and HS2.

Following the vote to leave the EU, all three projects were shrouded in doubt, with talks of “delays” or even “scrapping” some of them altogether.

For firms that were involved in the £3bn-worth of contracts at Hinkley, or those battling it out for HS2’s £11.8bn civils packages, there were a few concerns.

As one consultant told me: “[The UK] needs quick wins on these projects to give confidence to the industry.”

So two months into her tenure, have those quick wins materialised?

In the main, no.

Since the vote, we have written a lot about the UK government’s decision to review Hinkley Point C and what it means for construction and the nuclear new-build programme, compared with airport expansion which the government has pretty much left alone. 

But it has not all been doom, gloom and silence for the infrastructure sector.

HS2 was under the spotlight after the Brexit vote. Headlines were filled with serious questions over its viability, while a damning National Audit Office report released just four days after the vote didn’t help.

But so far, the project remains largely on track.

“HS2 is safe,” was the first public message from our new transport secretary Chris Grayling.

This rhetoric has been backed up by positive action too.

The publishing of the shortlists for phase two’s £170m development partner and £350m professional service, on schedule, will do a lot to calm nervous consultants and contractors.

And this is important at the start of what will be a crucial year for the project.

As Construction News revealed today, the next 12 months will see billions of pounds-worth of contracts let. It is important the procurement timetable is kept.

There has already been talk of the £900m enabling works contract awards being pushed back by a month, and it is important this doesn’t spread.

HS2 is holding the light for the UK’s major projects at the moment but it is important that Mrs May continues to instil confidence in the sector.

In the news

Big exclusive from reporter Lucy Alderson as nine contractors are chosen for a £500m Cambridge Uni framework.

Lendlease has been chosen to build Akyon London One – a luxury residential tower in the Nine Elms area.

HS2: What contracts have been awarded? What shortlists have been chosen? What are the biggest opportunities coming up? See CN’s full breakdown of contracts so far.


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