CECA: £600m roads pledge is “old money being announced as new”

The north east division of the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association (CECA) says the recently announced £600 million worth of improvements for roads in the area is old money being announced as new.

Details of the improvements that will take place on roads in the north east by 2020 were revealed by Highways England last week, but Douglas Kell – a director from the north east division of CECA – said the funding won’t improve work prospects for construction and civil engineering firms any time soon.

He said: “Bald figures like this can so easily mislead. Regrettably, as often happens with government announcements of this nature, work already under way or previously promised for roads gets lumped together with any genuinely new injection of public spending.”

He says the biggest project listed, the A1 Western Bypass improvement, Coal House to the Metrocentre at Gateshead, has already been under way for some time, is ongoing, and accounts for about £60m earlier announced.

Kell added: “There are other projects cited that are ongoing and not brand new. So about £540m of the total concerns projects still to be considered, meaning little available new work for north east firms now.”

The £600m figure announced in Newcastle by Highways England, a government owned company set up earlier this year, is said to be the amount that will take place in the region by 2020.

Highways England has a five-year budget of over £11bn to invest in England’s motorways and major A roads. Jeremy Bloom, Highways England’s director of major projects in the north, said at the time of the announcement: “Drivers in the north east will see significant investment in major A roads and motorways across the region over the next five years.

“We’re investing £600m on delivering major improvements to the north east, starting or completing six major road schemes and carrying out further development of four further major schemes.”

But Kell concluded by stating: “Linking work underway with proposals stated previously, to the building and civil engineering industry, is simply old money being announced as new money. It would conveniently conceal that the money available now is nearer 10% of £600m.

“As the other major plans are still under consideration and yet to be put to consultation it means there is no new investment yet for firms to build on. It is wonderful when substantial sums are announced but to repeat after repeat the same money and extending the delivery time to 2020 doesn’t give the sector the work it needs now.”

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