What will 2015 have in store for major projects?
Last year closed with some positive news for the construction industry as the government earmarked £15bn for investment in roads.
It also brought considerable spade-in-the ground progress on the £14bn Crossrail scheme and progress of the political variety for controversial projects like High Speed 2.
But we all know that things which are promised in the run up to a General Election can so easily be snatched away. So what does 2015 hold for seven of the biggest UK infrastructure projects that are either in progress or slated to begin very shortly?
This is a big year for construction of the £14bn Crossrail scheme, which will boost London’s rail capacity by 10% when it opens. The final tunnel drive will be complete by the summer, followed by the first new Crossrail station - Custom House - by the end of the year. Then, Londoners will really be able to see the landscape-shifting project taking shape.
Verdict: Full steam ahead
2. High Speed 2
Finally the talk can stop - well maybe, not quite, but procurement will really begin in earnest on the uber-controversial High Speed 2 scheme this year. Nine major deals to work on the London-to-Birmingham phase of the £43bn scheme will be bundled together into two batches for pre-qualification purposes. Meanwhile the Hybrid Bill to give permission for the project will continue to rumble through the Parliamentary process all year.
Verdict: Gaining traction
3. Thames Tideway Tunnel
While construction of the £4bn “super sewer” won’t begin until 2016, this will be an important year for the much-criticised scheme. Quite some effort will be needed to fight off legal challenges and vocal opponents. At the same time the main construction contracts for the east, west and central chunks of the scheme are expected to be awarded, and also an infrastructure provider to deliver the mammoth London project is due to be secured.
Verdict: Churning through the pipeline
4. A14 upgrade
The poor old A14, which takes traffic from the M1 and the M6 to Cambridge, has become something of a symbol of stalled infrastructure plans. First the Kettering bypass and then the £1bn Huntingdon bypass were put on ice by the coalition in 2010. However, with the former now underway, the latter was in the first package of work to go to the Highways Agency’s collaborative delivery framework, and should be awarded imminently, for a 2016 start.
Verdict: Pedal to the metal
5. Stonehenge Tunnel
A 2.9km tunnel under the site of the Stonehenge monument is a critical part of a £2bn plan to upgrade the A303 throughout the South West of England. Having been scrapped in 2007, the tunnel proposal gained popularity last year and was among 83 schemes promised government funding in December. The tunnel remains politically sensitive, however, with some seeing it as unnecessarily expensive and others saying it should be even longer and costlier.
Verdict: Light at the end of the tunnel
6. Hinkley Point
All eyes are on power giant EDF, which is expected to make the final decision early this year on whether to invest £25bn in the construction of the first new nuclear plant in
the UK in 20 years. If it gets the go ahead, the Hinkley Point site in Somerset could quickly become a hive of activity. Preferred bidders have been announced for major contracts, and suppliers have been able to register their interest through the client. Earthworks have been underway for some time.
Verdict: At the push of a button
7. Queensferry Crossing
After three and a half years of work in the weather-battered Firth of Forth, the deck of the £1.4bn Queensferry Crossing will begin to take shape this year. Morrison Construction chief Michael Martin will take the reins in January after previous project manager Carlo Germani left for a job in Qatar. With the support towers all above deck level, a big year of horizontal building is expected, with completion in late 2016.
Verdict: Sitting pretty
Watch progress video here.