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Recession shouldn’t be the only time for mega-projects

The list of inspirational mega-projects on the go around the world continues to grow.

Economic crisis or not, it’s a veritable engineers’ playground out there. This week NCE features the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macau crossing, the Fehmarn Belt bridge between Denmark and Germany and Crossrail.

All are progressing to the start line. They are not alone. Hong Kong’s Stonecutters Bridge is also nearing completion, Edinburgh’s Forth replacement crossing is fast becoming a reality. In London, piling started last week on Renzo Piano’s Shard skyscraper while New York’s Freedom Tower is surviving the recession.

There are many more such mega-projects underway and on drawing boards around the world. All are designed to improve living standards and increase business efficiency. These projects must surely also bear testimony to the accepted wisdom of investing in infrastructure when the going gets tough.

Tangible, long-lasting investment that reaps economic reward now and continues to reap economic reward for decades to come. Meanwhile the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful economies met in London this week, hoping to hammer out some sort of united response to the economic crisis. Sadly, as NCE went to press the general view was that the chance of achieving any such agreement was remote.

Underlining value, not just as a stimulus in a downturn, but as the backbone to the nation’s well being  

No matter how globally entwined our lives now are, economic policy is still rooted in national interest. Yet for all this, the need for decent modern infrastructure remains constant. The economic value of the ability to travel, to cross natural divides and to have decent accommodation in which to live and work.

For the UK, Crossrail looms most heavily with contracts being let and start of construction set firmly for 2010. And as Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy told NCE’s Crossrail conference this week, such decent modern infrastructure projects have a “transformational effect on the whole community” and should not be one-offs but part of a continual programme of upgrading.

So hopefully we are reaching a tipping point where governments now recognise this transformational effect and appreciate that Crossrail should be followed by, say, High Speed 2 and Crossrail 2. Let’s hope so because developing this stream of major infrastructure projects is vital to developing the skills and supply chains that will make future delivery more efficient and effective.

The job of lobbying and persuading government of the value of infrastructure investment is far from over. Underlining value, not just as a stimulus during an economic downturn, but value as the backbone to the nation’s well being all the time.

  • Antony Oliver is NCE’s editor  

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