Civil engineering contractors have reported no improvement in workloads in the first quarter of 2011, with the highways sector remaining the toughest to win work.
The latest workload trends survey carried out by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) shows that 43% of firms saw their workloads deteriorate in the first quarter of 2011, compared with the same period a year ago. Just 16% saw workloads increase. The balance between the two (27%) is slightly worse than seen in the previous quarter.
Members did report growth in workload in the rail, water and power sectors, although this was not sufficient to offset the continuing and striking declines in road work.
Just 6% of firms saw workload increase in motorways and trunk roads, compared to 67% reporting a decline. In local roads just 14% saw workload increase, compared to 51% that saw a decline.
Other concerns raised by the survey highlight the worrying squeeze between inflation and tender prices. The overwhelming majority (76%) of respondents reported rising costs, with 42% reporting prices rising faster than a year ago.
A majority also reported tender prices continuing to fall.
CECA director of external relations Alasdair Reisner commented: “For an industry still seeking the light at the end of
a very dark tunnel, there are few grounds for optimism in this survey.
“While signs of growth in rail and power are certainly welcome, the fact that the overwhelming balance of respondents reported continuing falls in workload is a real cause for concern.
“CECA is hopeful that the policies now being implemented by Infrastructure UK and others will support a return to growth in the civil engineering sector.
“However the results of this survey demonstrate that, for an industry being squeezed between rising costs and falling tender prices, the government has no time to lose in taking important measures to streamline procurement and encourage private sector investment.”