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Output up on higher transport spend

HOPES THAT the government is starting to deliver on promises of increased transport spending received a boost last week when the latest government figures showed a surge in construction output.

But contractors remained cautious about the news, warning that there were few signs that spending could be maintained over the next decade.

Figures released by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) show that first quarter infrastructure output was £1.8bn at 1995 prices, compared with £1.6bn in the first quarter of 2001.

Construction Products Association economics director Allan Wilén said the increase was mainly a result of work on the £485M M6 Toll (formerly known as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road) and the £4.5bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The DTI figures show that, at current prices, road spending rose from £479M during the first quarter of 2001 to £621M this year. Rail spending almost doubled from £234M during the first quarter of 2001 to £621M this year.

'This marked increase in construction output is a positive indication that the government is starting to deliver on its promises, ' said Wilén.

But the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) expressed concern that central government was failing to feed more highways schemes through to the Highways Agency.

More schemes needed to be put into the targeted programme of improvements if spending was to remain on track to meet targets set out in the 10 year transport plan, it said.

The figures also showed that output was increasingly concentrated in the South East and CECA warned that the situation could worsen.

'The Strategic Rail Authority's strategic plan is quite unambiguously tipped towards the South East and commuter lines into London, ' said CECA's chief economist Jim Turner.

INFOPLUS www. dti. gov. uk

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