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The waiting game

“I’m sorry, but the 7:46 to London Euston has been delayed…”

“Delay” (n): an all-too-familiar word to the UK’s weary army of commuters.

“Delay” (n): a word becoming all too familiar to the construction industry when talking about the UK’s major infrastructure projects.

First it was HS2. Or at least that’s what some are predicting.

The project, which is expected to begin main line construction in 2018, had to bat off fears of a tardy start after the CPA forecasted that the main civils work wouldn’t start until at least 2020.

Then, last week, the possibility of a delay for London’s next runway reared its ugly head.

If the political wrangling over which airport will get the gig wasn’t enough to make any contractor’s head spin, the announcement by the government’s chief planning officer that a runway at Gatwick or Heathrow could be subject to a hybrid bill may well have tipped them over the edge.

Not to be left out, EDF chief Bernard Levy announced that everyone’s favourite “will it, won’t it” nuclear project at Hinkley would not be completed until after the previously announced date of 2023.

While the delays surrounding Hinkley and the other major infrastructure projects might feel like a farce at times, for contractors they are no joke.

With Hinkley expected to cost £24.5bn, HS2 a whopping £42.6bn and an extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick carrying a price tag of between £9bn and £15bn, there’s plenty at stake.

That’s especially true when you consider what’s already tied up in these projects.

Hinkley announced £1.3bn worth of contracts as recently as July, while next month will see the starting gun fired on tendering for billions of pounds of HS2 civils contracts.

The Conservative Party’s commitment to major infrastructure, as laid out in its election manifesto, was welcomed by the UK’s contractors.

However, talk is cheap for contractors; quite literally, when spades are not in the ground.

The early promise seems to be stuttering of late, with talk of delays causing uncertainty.

At a time when capacity and skills are major concerns, contractors need time to prepare their workforces and supply chains for work.

Decisive action is required, and the government needs to take the lead.

Investment decisions need to be secured, preferred runways need to be selected and timeframes for hybrid bills need to be set in stone.

And this needs to happen soon. Preferably without delay.

More from the CN100

HS2 may be some way off, but the CN100 train keeps rolling as the CPA’s Dr Noble Francis outlines just how big a boost infrastructure projects could be for construction firms. Dr Francis writes how the sector will overtake housing to become the biggest driver for economic recovery.

We go regional too, as CN’s editorial analyst Charlie Schouten tells us where the UK construction industry’s bright spots will be over the next 24 months.

Plus, don’t miss the rest of our coverage, including analysis of every specialist sector and the top 100 contractors league table in full.

Trouble on Teesside

The arguments between trade unions and Sita Sembcorp UK on its Wilton 11 EfW site continue to rumble on as the company rejects calls for a forensic wage audit.

Road to profit

CN’s features editor Daniel Kemp takes a break from the long form with a story on the success of Highways England’s project bank accounts.

Last call

Gatwick has announced two major frameworks worth a combined total of £750m as part of its capital investment programme.

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