There will be more than a few who will be happy to see the back of 2018, after what can politely be described as a “challenging” year.
Be it contractors or clients, there won’t be many who look back fondly at the last 12 months.
Typifying 2018 are two events, one from the very start of the year and one at the very end; Carillion’s collapse two weeks into the year, and then just two week’s ago Crossrail’s latest admission that the line will need an additional £2bn to be completed.
And of course two major bridge collapses, in Florida in March and then in Genoa in August, will be remembered in much the same vein as the Grenfell tower disaster the year before. Investigations into both collapses continue, with a rebuild plan now in place for the Polcevera viaduct.
There have been moments of celebration in between, of course. The success of Mace’s jumping factory, Heathrow expansion receiving the go ahead and tunnelling work on Tideway getting underway are just some moments to savour.
However those moments have been short-lived and far too often have been overshadowed by delays to projects such as Tottenham’s stadium, cost overruns to national infrastructure schemes like HS2 and Crossrail and rumours about contractors living perilously close to the edge such as Kier and Interserve.
Since the turn of the year, the search for “the next Carillion” has captivated the imaginations of national newspapers, investors and the public alike with Interserve the latest firm to be put under the microscope. Meanwhile, Skanska cut 3,000 jobs worldwide, and then a month later Lagan Construction announced it would be putting four of its divisions into administration.
Oxford-based firm Amey has also had a rocky year with parent company Ferrovial now looking to shift it off its books. It recently won a place on the Highways England £8.7bn Regional Delivery Partnership framework. But it also lost a lengthy legal battle with Birmingham City Council, which saw the firm make a £189.9M pretax loss last year after making a £208M additional provision for the problem highways contract.
The firm was also embroiled in a dispute of the number of trees it planned to fell on a £2.2bn highways maintenance contract in Sheffield. That dispute appears to be resolved now, paving the way for a sale to go ahead in the new year.
Highways projects in general have had a mixed time of things in 2018, especially since chancellor Phillip Hammond announced the end of PFI and PF2 projects in his Autumn Budget statement, putting a spanner in the works of Highways England’s business plans for both the Lower Thames Crossing and the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel.
Both projects have had their challenges this year. The A303 plans have predictably run into opposition from archaeologists, made worse last month when enabling works put a hole in an ancient platform. Meanwhile enabling works on the Lower Thames Crossing ran into an unexpected problem in the shape of Benny the Beluga who decided to show up just as works were set to get underway.
Roll on 2019 and as a wise man once said: Don’t look back in anger!
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