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Wales misses out in rail funding plan

Welsh contractors have suffered fresh disappointment after the government deferred plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line beyond south-east of England.

The work was omitted from a £14 billion funding package for Network Rail announced by transport secretary Philip Hammond.

The news came hot on the heels of decisions to scrap a £14bn defence training academy in St Athan, Glamorgan, and a tidal energy construction project in the Severn Estuary.

A Civil Engineering Contractors Association spokesman said: “Coming so soon after the Severn barrage and St Athan defence training establishment decisions, the news that the electrification of the West Coast Mainline is to be deferred is a further blow for the Welsh construction industry.”

The Department for Transport said any decision to electrify lines beyond Newbury, Berkshire, could not be taken until the government had decided how to replace the fleet of InterCity trains.

The decision between a full fleet of all-electric trains and a mixed fleet, with some diesel trains, is due in the new year.

The Network Rail funding will support capital maintenance and infrastructure investment, including £6bn for improvements to Thameslink stations, track and trains, and additional funding to franchisees for extra rolling stock.

Mr Hammond revealed that the completion date for the planned rebuilding of London Bridge station would be pushed back from 2016 to 2018 to reduce “substantial risks” of delivery, and operation of existing services, during construction.

Andy Holt, business development manager at NG Bailey Rail, described the announcements as “all positive” for the contractor, especially as it is involved in building the depots to hold rolling stock.

He admitted it would have been better for the Thameslink projects to be brought forward rather than delayed, but added “perhaps that’s being a little greedy”.

Mr Hammond’s announcement did not contain great detail on the timings for the infrastructure projects, but NG Bailey has “made a bit of a guess” on when the bidding process is likely to begin, according to Mr Holt.

“As long as you have got something to hang a hat on, you can start asking questions and digging around,” he said.

Civils firms continue to suffer in the wake of the Comprehensive Spending Review. A Ceca survey last week found that half of the 120 respondents saw lower workloads in October 2010 than in the same month last year, while just 18 per cent saw higher workloads.

Firms employing between 115 and 299 employees were hit hardest, with 63 per cent reported falling workloads and just 4 per cent reporting increases.

Transport for London last week admitted some Northern Line station works would be scrapped.

A spokesman said upgrades would only go ahead on major stations.


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