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Six things we've learned in 2014

There have been many defining themes and moments during 2014 - an exhilarating time for some, a rollercoaster for even more.

So what exactly can we learn from it and for the year ahead?

1) Politicians get construction - at last. Dave, George, Boris - it was de rigeur for ministers to be snapped in a hard hat as they championed high-speed rail, roads and housing.

But as our debate with Aecom this week highlighted, £55bn-worth of looming cuts means big infrastructure is not a done deal yet.

And besides, with another skills crisis on us, who is going to build it?

2) It’s been the year of housing. While most sectors have been flat, housebuilding has been the engine of recovery.

Within that, social housing has grown faster than expected - output is up 34 per cent.

With gearing among associations at a high, can this continue? Prices in the private sector are cooling, with an average London home shedding £30,000 in November.

Contractors in this market can expect even more pressure to contain construction costs.

3) There’s no end to the appetite for mergers. Consultants such as Aecom and URS and Arcadis and Hyder were driven together by globalisation and urbanisation.

“There’s still much pain to be worked through, but contractors are certainly being choosier what they bid for now”

On the contracting side the headlines were grabbed by the deal that never happened: Balfour Beatty and Carillion. It’s off the table for now, but could Carillion instigate fresh talks in the new year?

4) Don’t count your chickens. Anyone with long memories will know the protracted pace of government schemes and it’s energy projects that look set to frustrate again in 2015.

The Green Deal is yet to live up to expectations, haggling continues over nuclear and collapsing oil prices have created further uncertainty.

5) Even the mighty fall, as demonstrated by Tesco, which saw £2bn wiped off its value overnight. The company has cut its store programme and others will follow in 2015.

6) The parlous state of UK contractors. Balfour Beatty issued three profit warnings and Morgan Sindall, Sir Robert McAlpine and Vinci are among those haunted by the ghosts of projects past.

There’s still much pain to be worked through, but contractors are certainly being choosier what they bid for now - as our story on One Nine Elms this week highlights.

However next year pans out, Construction News looks forward to being even more central to your business. We wish you all an exciting, enterprising and prosperous 2015.

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