Industry must double output to meet infrastructure aims, warn Arcadis

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The UK construction sector must raise the rate of infrastructure delivery to more than £95,000 of output per minute in order to meet future demand, Arcadis has claimed.

Large-scale infrastructure schemes are helping to stimulate the UK economy and generate much-needed jobs. And yet, delivery of that same infrastructure will require the construction industry to more than double peak output of £20Bn per year.

That claim forms the basis of a brand new Arcadis report, entitled ‘Opportunity Knocks: Delivering the UK’s Infrastructure Pipeline‘. The report – which collates the knowledge and experience of asset owners, investors and delivery partners alike – outlines six key factors to ensure UK infrastructure remains deliverable.

According to Arcadis, the opportunities for the industry at large are many. Today, there are more large-scale infrastructure schemes underway than ever before. In Greater London alone £28Bn of infrastructure investment is expected over the next four years.

Meanwhile, the Northern Powerhouse has a combined infrastructure opportunity of £13Bn in the run-up to 2021, with Manchester Airport’s Transformation Programme and Network Rail’s Transpennine Route Upgrade taking shape.

This assessment is based on the current iteration of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP), which forecasts £500Bn of infrastructure expenditure over the next decade. According to Arcadis, the NICP actually understates the scale of opportunity by excluding many of the UK’s most significant infrastructure schemes – the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport and Highways England’s Lower Thames Crossing, for instance.

Delivery remains a sticking point however. If the industry is to keep pace with growing infrastructure demand, it will require nothing less than a step-change – a brand new way of working.

Greg Bradley, Head of UK Business Advisory at Arcadis, was on-hand to explain more: “With some of the most complex and technically challenging projects now underway, the industry is under more pressure and facing more competition to deliver than ever before. We have a massive opportunity here to upgrade our much needed infrastructure networks, and to do things differently. From new roads, railways, power plants and utility networks to new technologies and Smart Cities, there has never been a more exciting opportunity to transform how we plan and deliver projects.

“The need to double construction output on infrastructure is no small task, and it will force us to do things differently. The industry needs to look at innovating on a massive scale to achieve the step-change required, including up-scaling digital solutions, offsite manufacture and offshore design, investment in skills and training, sharing of resources and better alignment with regional development agendas. We also need to continue to collaborate across sectors and the supply chain to help speed up the pace of delivery.”

Infrastructure is a hot-button issue at the moment. Earlier in the week, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan met with Lord Andrew Adonis – Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission – to discuss the importance of large-scale infrastructure schemes post-Brexit. Whether or not the industry can make good on those aspirations remains to be seen.

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