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Q&A: Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail and CLC

With Crossrail more than 80 per cent complete, CEO and Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andrew Wolstenholme talks to us about his hopes for next year.

Andrew Wolstenholme chief executive Crossrail

Andrew Wolstenholme chief executive Crossrail

What are your hopes for 2017?

A continued strong pipeline of infrastructure projects to secure the future of the industry and further clarity for the sector around Brexit and the industrial strategy, as well as outcomes that support the industry’s strengths.

The Crossrail programme will begin 2017 more than 80 per cent complete; we will be focused on delivering our key milestone dates to allow the dynamic testing phase to begin at the end of 2017 when the new railway will be one year away from services commencing through central London.

What are the top three ways construction will change in the next 12 months?

The UK needs to become smarter and better at delivering construction; the development of smart assets and the role of offsite and modular construction will only continue to increase in importance.

We will see an increasing focus on attracting women into the industry – there is so much more we can and need to do.

And there will be increased investment in training and skills. Our capacity crisis, caused by a lack of skills across a range of skilled professions, impacts our ability to deliver much-needed infrastructure and holds the sector back from realising its ambitions.

The only way forward is to invest in skills and training and for the sector to be seen as an attractive, diverse and rewarding place to work.

Which sectors / areas will you be focusing on in 2017?

Productivity and technology. We need to improve productivity in construction to deliver better, more certain outcomes by using digital technologies like BIM and increasing the proportion of offsite manufacturing.

We also need to get more out of new and existing assets through the use of smart technology to optimise whole-life performance. By focusing on these areas, we can drive a transformation in our industry.

Brexit: good or bad for construction?

It is still too early to tell what the long-term impacts for the sector will be, but we have to treat it as an opportunity.

I am delighted that the government has given a renewed focus to industrial strategy. We have a world-class skills base in the UK on both project design and delivery, and a significant opportunity to maximise that advantage to drive economic growth at home and increase exports abroad. But we must also ensure the UK has the necessary skills capacity and workforce to deliver the planned pipeline of infrastructure projects.

What were your high and low points of 2016?

My high point for the industry during 2016 was the government’s commitment to major infrastructure projects such as HS2, Tideway and Hinkley Point.

My personal highlight was welcoming the Queen to Bond Street to announce that Crossrail will be known as the Elizabeth line when it opens in 2018, and launching the new industry I3P programme out of the Crossrail innovation programme as one of our key learning legacy outputs.

A continuing industry low is the limited collaboration in the sector which often restricts innovation and investment. We can learn much from the aerospace sector, where the industry works closely together to achieve a greater commercial advantage.

Andrew Wolstenholme is co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council and CEO of Crossrail

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