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Civils hit as work dries up

INFRASTRUCTURE spending collapsed last year and is unlikely to recover until 2006, materials producers said last week.

Infrastructure output is estimated to have fallen 12% to £6.2bn in 2003 and is only forecast to rise by 1% this year, 3.4% in 2005 and 2% in 2006.

Even then output will only be restored to 2001 levels, according to Construction Products Association (CPA) forecasts.

Rail output dropped 25% to £1.1bn last year, reflecting Network Rail's decision to switch to more cost effective blockades for large scale renewal work on the West Coast Main Line.

The picture is no better for major highways. Output over the next two years is projected to fall 10% from £503M in 2002/03 and another 10% in the following year.

Balfour Beatty general manager of major highways projects Steve Tarr believes lack of government effort to develop schemes in the late 1990s has caused a slowdown in roads projects.

'When the Labour government first came to power there was very little spent developing future projects, ' said Tarr.

'So now there is a lack of projects in store ready to go - and that is a major problem, ' he added.

The forecast downturn in spending also reflects the lack of major projects to replace the recently completed M6 toll motorway and Channel Tunnel Rail Link section one.

Forecasts of a spending downturn come as the RAC Foundation outlined a £2bn, 10 year programme it believes is urgently needed to relieve congestion.

INFOPLUS The access the RAC report go to www.

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