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Sat April 13 2024

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Lower Thames tunnel boosts new orders data

12 Mar UK construction contract awards reached their highest level in February 2024 for seven months, according to one of the industry’s data monitoring firms – though they might not all actually happen.

According to the statisticians, the Lower Thames Crossing is already a done deal
According to the statisticians, the Lower Thames Crossing is already a done deal

According to Barbour ABI’s research, £7.1bn of new business was signed by contractors in the UK last month.

However, nearly a fifth of this headline figure was for work that has to receive planning permission and may not do so for many months, if ever – the Lower Thames Crossing between Kent and Essex.

The £1.34bn contract signed by Bouygues Murphy Joint Venture recently to build the twin tunnels as part of the wider £9bn scheme has been included in Barbour ABI’s February data, doubling its monthly total for infrastructure contract awards compared to January.

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However, it will be June at the earliest that the secretary of state for transport will sign the development consent order that landed on his desk in December. Legal challenges are then likely to follow and then a change of government with different priorities. It is not yet a done deal. Bouygues Murphy JV’s contract is nice to have, but at this stage it is not yet worth £1.3bn.

Barbour ABI is the exclusive provider of new orders estimates to the Office for National Statistics and partner to the Infrastructure & Projects Authority in providing the National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline. It appears that contract awards are being added to national statistics before they are legally binding.

A better indicator of the industry’s fortunes might be planning applications – of which most succeed and some fail at a rate that, over time, balances out. Barbour ABI’s latest data on planning applications shows a 22% year-on-year decline in aggregate value.

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