Latest Civil Engineering Contractors Association survey warns growth in the infrastructure sector has begun to slow

Hi-speed link in Italy between Milan and Bologna Balfour Beatty

Civils contractors have warned that the much-heralded recovery in construction remains fragile and that growth in the infrastructure sector, a key driver of the industry’s resurgence,has begun to slow.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) latest workload trends survey for the final quarter of 2013 (attached right) found that although contractors’ workloads were continuing to increase, the rise in activity had slowed compared to the previous quarter.

The survey found the strongest growth was in rail and preliminary works for housing, yet activity in local roads was down to -6% on balance compared to the third quarter of 2013.

The survey found that contractors remain positive about the future, with a balance of +58% expecting workloads to grow over the coming year.

This comes despite a sharp decline in the rate of growth of new orders, down to +3% from +30%.

However, the survey also found that prospects of new work were boosting employment across the sector, with 50% more firms taking on staff than cutting headcount in the last year.

Meanwhile, the survey found tender prices were slowly rising, up for 36% of firms, on balance, compared with the same point last year.

CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “It is good news that the infrastructure sector is growing, but today’s report indicates that growth in the sector remains fragile.

“It is crucial that government and industry work together to ensure we maintain momentum in delivering projects, if Britain is to achieve the shared goal of all political parties: an infrastructure-led recovery.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Workloads increased for a second consecutive quarter according to 31% of firms, on balance
  • 8 out of 10 sectors showed growth in workloads, only airports and local roads showed declines, on balance
  • According to a balance of 58% of firms, workloads during the next 12 months are expected to increase
  • On balance, 48% of firms in Britain expect employment to increase in the next 12 months