“Two-speed” covid recovery as building lags infrastructure

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Contractors are raising concerns over a “two-speed” recovery post lockdown with commercial construction lagging behind infrastructure.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil major infrastructure investment plans this week to “get Britain moving again” as the Covid-19 pandemic eases.

The announcement will intensify fears among general contractors that they are being forgotten.

One construction director said: “We work mainly in the commercial sector and nothing is happening in terms of a bounce back.

“All the talk is about infrastructure spending and that was a sector which wasn’t hit so badly in terms of shutting down sites.”

Another added: “We specialise in the London commercial market and nothing is doing at the moment.

“Clients aren’t looking at signing off projects and we are at a bit of a standstill new work wise.”

Johnson is looking to fast-track work on new schools, hospitals, housing, road and rail infrastructure.

Infrastructure contractors have survived lockdown in better shape than general building firms with fewer civils sites shutting down.

Murphy is reinstating full pay for staff after it “performed well” during lockdown as is Laing O’Rourke.

Highways and civils specialist Kilkern and its subsidiary Vac UK are also predicting an increase in turnover this year as many infrastructure sites have been operating continuously.

Director Patrick Curran said: “We are looking to open a new office in Birmingham to service our HS2 and highways clients as business picks up again.”

But one contracting boss said: “Again this week all the talk will be about infrastructure and housing.

“If you specialise in areas like leisure, retail or offices then things are pretty dire for the foreseeable future.”

Source: Construction Enquirer

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