Construction Products Association forecasts good times for sector; also today, big developments for the fledgling fracking industry.
5.15pm: The Cumbrian coast line reopened today – 10 days after large sections of the railway were washed away during storms and flooding.
Hundreds of Network Rail engineers worked round the clock to rebuild large parts of the line following significant damage on Friday 3 January.
More than 4,000 tonnes of rock were transported to the area to rebuild the railway, as was new track, signalling equipment and other infrastructure.
Martin Frobisher, area director for Network Rail, said: “The storm and subsequent flooding caused significant damage to the railway along the Cumbrian coast but a huge amount of work has been completed in a very short amount of time so the line could reopen today.”
5pm: Transport campaigners have urged councils to run more socially integrated bus services.
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, told MPs on the Transport Committee this afternoon that people were being isolated from employment and important facilities.
He said many hospitals and businesses were located in out-of-town locations that were easy to reach by car but difficult to access by public transport.
This left certain groups of people – in cities and towns as well as in rural villages – without critical transport links, Joseph warned.
He said replacing dedicated school services with more integrated bus services gave more people access to transport, and brought together revenue streams.
3.30pm: Shale gas firms are to undertake a major study into what skills and equipment they will need for the activity in the UK.
Onshore oil and gas representative body UKOOG will fund the project jointly with the government. It will be carried out by professional services firm EY.
The project will provide a detailed inventory of the requirements of the UK industry, which has been boosted by several announcements today.
EY partner Chris Lewis said: “EY hopes that the report will prove to be a crucial step in realising the opportunities associated with the burgeoning onshore sector.
“Engaging with suppliers and operators and assessing their capabilities and requirements will help UKOOG map out a development path that demonstrates how value can be maximised for the benefit of the wider UK economy.”
A previous report by the Institute of Directors found the potential for 74,000 jobs in the industry.
3pm: More fracking news on what is turning into a big day for the controversial activity - schemes are to be chosen to test the community investment model.
Onshore oil and gas body UKOOG announced that £100,000 would be made available for the benefit of the people living near each pilot project.
The body will work with UK Community Foundations, which will consult with the local people on how to spend the money.
Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: “The pilot scheme approach will allow us to learn at an early stage what works for the communities we are operating in and how we can develop our schemes for the future.
“The scheme will allow community benefits to be delivered and owned by local communities, for local communities, reacting to locally defined need and addressing local priorities.”
2.30pm: Councils have called for the government to force fracking companies to pay local communities up to 10% of shale gas revenues.
Prime minister David Cameron today said that councils would be able to keep 100 per cent of the business rates they collected from fracking sites.
He also revealed that the industry would consult on how to share 1 per cent of revenues from shale gas with the community where it was discovered.
But Local Government Association environment and housing board chairman Mike Jones said: “One per cent of gross revenues distributed locally is not good enough; returns should be more in line with payments across the rest of the world and be set at between five and 10 per cent.”
He added: “The community benefits of fracking should be enshrined in law, so companies cannot withdraw them to the detriment of local people.”
2pm: A £250,000 asphalt recycling centre has opened in Bedfordshire.
Greener Surfacing’s Greener Centre in Blunham will be used for road and pavement surfacing projects by central and local government, surfacing contractors and infrastructure partners.
Nick Antrobus, managing director of Greener Surfacing, said: “When road resurfacing work is carried out, old asphalt tends to be disposed of in local landfill sites with large sums then being spent on fresh virgin asphalt.
“The old asphalt can now been recycled and reused at a much reduced price, saving public money, landfill issues and costs, and helping councils meet their carbon reduction targets.”
1pm: An Atkins-designed rail station at Cambridge Science Park has been given the green light.
The station will link the East Anglian business zone to London and be used by 3,000 passengers a day.
The project will also create a public square; parking for 1,000 bicycles and 450 cars; and the extension of the Cambridge busway.
Construction is expected to start soon with the station due to open in December 2015.
12pm: French oil and gas business Total has acquired a 40% interest in two shale gas exploration licences in the UK.
The interests are in Petroleum Exploration & Development Licences 139 and 140, which cover an area of 240 sq km in the Gainsborough Trough area of the East Midlands.
On completion of the transaction, Total’s partners in the project will be GP Energy, Egdon Resources UK, Island Gas and eCorp Oil & Gas UK.
Total is an experienced fracking operator with shale gas projects underway in several countries including Poland and the US.
11am: David Cameron has moved to promote the controversial fracking method of gas extraction.
The prime minister today announced that councils would be able to keep 100 per cent of the business rates they collect from fracking sites.
At present local authorities can only keep half of this income – but the government wants to boost the activity.
Cameron said: “A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure. That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.”
10.45am: Amec has announced a ‘potential bid’ of $3.2bn (£1.9bn) for US-based engineering and design firm Foster Wheeler.
Shareholders at the US firm would receive 0.9 Amec shares plus $16 (£9.72) in cash per share if the offer was formally made and accepted.
Amec chief executive Samir Brikho said: “The combination of our two businesses would be financially and strategically attractive.
“As well as positioning us across the oil and gas value chain and providing scale in our growth regions, we would expect double-digit earnings enhancement in the first 12 months. I believe it would be a compelling proposition for our shareholders, customers and employees.”
10.30am: There is no let-up in sight for flood-hit communities in southern England.
The Environment Agency yesterday warned that flooding would continue along the River Thames this week.
Flood alerts remained in place yesterday lunchtime for West Dorset, Cranborne Chase and the Salisbury Plain.
River levels also remained high in parts of Hampshire, West Berkshire, Surrey, West Sussex, Wiltshire and along the River Severn in Worcester and Gloucestershire.
The Agency has estimated that about 640 properties have flooded in England already this year. It claims flood defences have protected 240,000 homes and businesses.
10am: The infrastructure industry will grow by more than a third in the next four years, according to a closely-watched report.
Construction Products Association forecasts said the sector would become the fastest growing part of the broader industry by 2015.
The CPA said new infrastructure work would rise by 6.8% to £14.1bn this year.
It predicted it would then surge by 9.5% next year; 11.0% in 2016; and a further 7.6% to reach £18.4bn in 2017.