THIS WEEK'S £517M injection into the deteriorating London Underground network offers fresh hope for the ailing civils sector.
According to the latest Government construction order figures, infrastructure spending has failed to maintain the momentum it developed last autumn with the letting of the first Channel Tunnel Rail Link contracts.
This week's decision by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to release the extra cash follows a plea by LU that it faced a potentially disastrous shortfall in funding because of delays in establishing the Public Private Partnership investment plan for the network (NCE 18 March).
The new funds will be added to the £365M given to LU when the PPP plan was announced over a year ago (NCE 29 March 1998). This cash is expected to be spent before April 2001.
Extra funding would produce 'improved reliability and ride quality' and 'modernised stations,' said Prescott.
The news of the new Tube funding arrived on the same day that figures released by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions showed a 3% drop in the value of infrastructure orders during the first five months of 1999 compared to the same period in 1998.
Civil engineering ended last year on a high note with orders 10% up on 1997 as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link finally got going.
Since then slow spending in the water and power sectors has dragged the market back.
The five month figures for the following sectors showed: public building (non-housing) up 11%; commercial building up 1%; and industrial building down 23%.