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Transport spending helps to boost construction output figures

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

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

UK construction output surged in the first quarter of 2002, according to figures released by the Department of Trade & Industry.

Total output was up 5% on last year, with new work rising over the same period, despite a fall in the private industrial sectors.

First quarter infrastructure output was £1.8bn at 1995 prices, compared with £1.6bn in the first quarter of 2001. The increase is thought to be largely a result of the £485M M6 Toll (formerly known as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road) and the £4.5bn Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

The 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 £446M.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association expressed concern that central government was failing to feed more highways schemes through to the Highways Agency. It said more schemes needed to be put into the Agency's programme of improvements if spending was to to meet targets in the 10 year transport plan.

The figures showed that output was increasingly concentrated in south east England and 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, ' the association said.

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