A plane flying over a railyard at dusk.

Three reasons why the construction industry can survive the downturn

Mike Plaster
Wednesday 20th January, 2016

Recent findings indicate that the British construction industry has adversely affected the country’s GDP and its prospects, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

According to the Office for National Statistics[1], the UK’s construction output fell for three months straight in the third quarter of 2015. This contributed to a slowdown of overall economic growth from 0.7% to 0.5% over the period – while the MEN[2] points to a seven-month low in construction prospects.

With the industry making up 6% of the UK’s GDP, the numbers indicate a strong negative impact on the nation as a whole given the low confidence in construction. But the Express[3] believes that things are actually looking up, with “positive purchasing managers’ survey results showing higher levels of activity across house building, civil engineering and commercial building work”.

With the amount of exciting projects happening up and down the UK, we’re inclined to agree.

  1. Crossrail, London

The £15 billion Crossrail project continues apace as the London rail network gets a major overhaul. Amid the usual concerns surrounding the environmental and social impact of the scheme – with Whitechapel residents set to benefit from a 54% increase in house values[4] – the consensus appears to be that the project will be completed on time and on budget, thanks to the city’s previous mammoth endeavour.

“The construction industry has moved up a level after learning from the Olympics,” project consultant Geoff Drabble told the Standard[5]. “Given the amount of dirt we’ve moved around recently, London has not ground to a halt.”

  1. Second City Crossing, Manchester

Early December saw the opening of a new tram stop in Manchester city centre that will serve the bustling Exchange Square. Original plans to expand the tram system by linking here from Victoria train station, which began last summer, were ‘fast-tracked’ by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, as part of plans to increase the Metro Link offering. It’s hoped that the Second City Crossing, including work at St Peter’s Square, will be fully up and running in 2017.

“Getting the Exchange Square stop up and running weeks before Christmas is a significant achievement – and one that would not have happened without European funding to fast-track the work,” said Cllr Andrew Fender told Rail Technology Magazine[6].

  1. Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route

North East Scotland is expecting to create around 1,500 jobs as work continues on a £745 million bypass for Aberdeen, which currently struggles to adequately manage peak-time traffic in several key areas. The bypass also aims to cater for heavy goods vehicles and passengers flying out from the airport.

But the development of plans for the new road hasn’t been without its conflicts. First announced in 2003, it took until 2009 to be signed off by the government because of protests[7]over the cost, as well as potential environmental issues.

Work on the bypass is expected to be completed in 2018 – another example of how ongoing work in the UK is contributing to our infrastructure’s ongoing development despite some bad omens in the news.

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