For an industry that is facing an uncertain outlook for workload, energy regulator Ofgem’s announcement that £22 billion will be spent upgrading the country’s power networks may have provided a crumb of comfort.
This was followed by the publication of the government’s High Level Output Specification for rail, committing to a further £9.4bn of investment in the UK’s rail network for five years from 2014.
While neither announcement will help companies working in the infrastructure sector today to tackle declining workloads, they do provide some certainty of opportunity on the horizon.
This visibility is one of the benefits of both energy and rail being regulated industries, with clear cycles of investment. For other parts of the industry, having an understanding of what is coming down the line is less easy.
For many years CECA has championed the benefits of greater visibility of the pipeline of investment. If construction companies have confidence about the future investment in a sector, they can respond to this demand more effectively, investing in the skills and techniques that will ensure optimal delivery.
For this reason we welcome the government’s commitment to publish forward pipelines of investment for infrastructure and public construction works.
We are already using this information to work with clients on future projects, helping them to engage at an early stage with the industry supply chain, identifying pitfalls and effective models of delivery.
But there is more to be done. We believe that a co-ordinated partnership between the supply chain and sector clients can build upon existing pipeline information, providing a more detailed analysis of likely demand, whether in a particular sub-sector or region.
We have seen the first signs of co-ordinated activity with the recent capability analysis of the tunnelling sector. That study brought together representatives from a range of organisations that will be developing tunnelling projects over the coming years
to identify opportunities to collaborate to ensure the UK supply chain is fit to deliver their projects when they come to market.
This must now be replicated across the infrastructure sector to allow better planning and build capability. This will benefit UK projects and also position these firms to take this competitive edge and market it around the world.
Steps are now being taken to make sure this is the case. We hope that all those in the industry will support this, playing their part in a partnership between the public and private sectors to raise standards across the supply chain.
We are encouraged by the work of central government but want to see local government follow suit. There are fledgling signs of collaboration in the North-west, where the industry is working together to deliver a more effective supply chain.
We hope that local authorities elsewhere will see the benefits and set up equivalent approaches.
Alasdair Reisner is director for external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association