How Hammond's Autumn Statement can deliver on infrastructure

With growth forecasts down and inflation expected to return next year, business leaders are putting pressure on chancellor Philip Hammond to soften the landing.

In response, he is expected to announce in the Autumn Statement that he will pump at least £20bn a year into Britain's infrastructure as part of a new industrial strategy. But with an emerging hole in public finances, how will he and our industry achieve value for money?

It is rumoured that the chancellor has earmarked hundreds of small 'shovel-ready' road, rail and housing schemes designed to boost GDP at least 1 per cent. However, the challenge facing Mr Hammond is how to deliver these projects more quickly, more efficiently and more safely, so they produce the most benefit for local communities and the economy.

There is a two-fold approach to delivering projects that have a positive impact on local communities and economies. First, bring in the right people with the right skills. Often, it's only large schemes that secure a diverse range of experts from engineers to environmental analysts. However, this is just as critical for small schemes. Such an approach ensures solutions are tailored directly to specific needs and the time and cost savings are significant.

This process was used during Crossrail when the Thorney Lane Road Bridge in Slough was replaced with a temporary one next to the original. By working closely with Network Rail, Crossrail and Balfour Beatty Rail, Mabey Hire was able to design and build a 60m-long bridge on site in just three weeks and install it in just four hours overnight with no road closures.

Second, projects can be accelerated to reduce disruption and ensure benefits are felt as quickly as possible. A small scheme that suffers delays may become more trouble than it's worth. One area where speed is critical is when working on a busy commuter route. For example, Mabey Hire recently strengthened the wonderfully named Swing Swang Bridge in Basingstoke by creating a fast-track process to fit a six-hour overnight window, saving Network Rail time and money and commuters significant disruption.

While large infrastructure projects create a national impact, smaller road and rail projects are of great significance to the communities they serve - ensuring businesses maintain access and connectivity and helping to improve people's daily lives.

To achieve the economic boost that the chancellor is looking for with such schemes, he'll need to focus on delivering 'shovel-ready' solutions to tight deadlines, in the most efficient and safest way possible.

By Chris Carter, Contracts Director


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