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Civil engineering in the news today - Wednesday 14 January 2009

The government was urged to embrace high-speed rail by the boss of Eurostar yesterday as the cross-Channel train operator claimed that record passenger numbers confirmed 'beyond doubt' rail's dominance over air travel...

Releasing figures showing the number of travellers on the London to Paris and Brussels service rose more than 10% last year, Richard Brown, the Eurostar chief executive, said he expected further growth - The Guardian

Government whips have embarked on a "ring round" to put pressure on rebel Labour MPs not to join forces with the Tories in a Commons vote opposing a third runway at Heathrow airport. As the cabinet discussed the expansion of Heathrow at its weekly meeting yesterday, the rebel MPs said they were prepared to ignore a government three-line whip and vote with the conservatives - The Guardian

Ministers are looking at detailed plans for a multibillion-pound infrastructure fund to kick start the stricken housing market. Against the worst conditions for housebuilding for more than 30 years, senior Whitehall officials are drawing up a groundbreaking scheme that would see the public sector inject equity into social housing developments in an attempt to "lever in" insurance and pension funds investment - The Guardian

Customers in rural areas could be charged more than those in towns and cities, the industry has said. Water UK, the industry body, said the situation could result from a suggestion that the market be opened up to competition, allowing customers to shop around - The Daily Telegraph

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has urged banks to offer more loans and pass on interest rate cuts to help the property industry, which is suffering its worst conditions in 30 years. The company, which sold 35pc fewer homes last year, said in a trading statement that it did not expect to see a short-term recovery in the market and gave warning that economic uncertainity was continuing to damage consumer confidence - The Daily Telegraph

Fewer deals were signed under the private finance initiative last year than at any point since the PFI took off a decade ago, according to an authoritative database. The credit crunch contributed heavily to just 34 PFI deals being signed last year, after at least 60 deals were signed every year over the past decade. The economic conditions also mean big deals such as the £4.5bn M25 widening, the M80 in Scotland and Britain’s biggest waste management project in Greater Manchester are still struggling to raise the money needed, with some practitioners arguing that further government guarantees, or public sector funding, will be necessary – Financial Times

The controversy-plagued programme to replace Britain’s ageing high-speed diesel train fleet is facing fresh delays after the Department for Transport postponed a decision on a preferred bidder for the project. The department, which is ordering the 125mph trains directly rather than through the normal avenue of a leasing company, was meant to choose between the two remaining bidders before Christmas, but has yet to do so – Financial Times

Taylor Wimpey said it had paid down debt and was on track to reach an agreement with its lenders before the housebuilder’s covenants are tested at the end of March. But the company warned that the housing market remained “very challenging” following a year in which home sales sank by more than a third and it made a third of its UK workforce redundant – Financial Times

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