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ACE and CECA warn of project delay consequences

Engineering bodies have expressed concerns over government plans to suspend transport infrastructure projects.

The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) warned that delaying projects could lead to greater cost to the client in the long run, while the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said work for contractors is in jeopardy.

The ACE said that delaying or canceling a project without reference to wider policy issues or requirements can generate more problems than it solves. Decisions on spending should be made with reference to the bigger picture, said an ACE statement.

“Government clients will be under increasing pressure to reduce spend on capital projects.”

Nelson Ogunshakin, ACE

The potential impact on private sector competitiveness was of particular concern to ACE. Private industries that traditionally depend on the public sector for a significant proportion of their business can be impacted particularly badly by cuts to public programmes, it said.

ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said: “Government clients will be under increasing pressure to reduce spend on capital projects.

“We welcome the opportunity to take part in the Government’s consultation process in order to help them make the most cost-effective decisions.”

CECA director Rosemary Beales said the move is an indication of things to come. “This puts a significant amount of potential work for contractors of all sizes in doubt,” she said.

“We urge the Department for Transport and the Government not to lose sight of the critical role that transport infrastructure plays in delivering productivity, prosperity and quality of life.

“Following initial contact with the new Government we are now seeking an urgent meeting with the Department for Transport to discuss this. They must maintain a close dialogue with the construction industry throughout this process.

“It is important that the Government keeps the sector fully appraised of its plans as they develop so we can be ready to deliver a programme of much-needed schemes when the funding is in place.”

Prioritisation reformed

Transport secretary Philip Hammond last week set out what the Government policy of reducing the national debt will mean for local authority major schemes, in the House of Commons.

With plans also being formulated to reform the way transport projects are prioritised, the secretary of state has suspended the major schemes guidance and associated approvals process until further notice, warning that not all schemes will be able to proceed on their planned timetable.

All schemes that were granted conditional approval or programme entry by the previous Government will be reviewed as part of the autumn spending review and until then there are no assurances on funding support.

Public inquiries into three schemes have also been suspended. Local authorities are warned that schemes prioritised under the previous Government’s Regional Funding Allocation process may not be funded to expected levels.

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