The UK’s construction sector has been severely impacted by Brexit, with many organisations and national indices recording a contraction in activity in recent months. However, there are signs that things are improving, in some areas at least.
According to the latest Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), workloads in infrastructure, as well as private housing, increased during the second quarter of 2019 compared to the first three months of the year.
Overall, the picture is looking up, with 16 per cent more professionals reporting an increase in construction output between April and June, compared to the net balance of nine per cent recorded between January and March.
The infrastructure sector, which saw a drop in workloads in the first quarter of 2019, is on the up again, according to the RICS data. 25 per cent more surveyors in the infrastructure sector expect workloads to rise rather than fall over the course of the rest of 2019.
But rising labour costs, skills shortages and issues with obtaining finance are some of the obstacles facing projects in all areas of the construction sector.
Jeffrey Matsu, RICS senior economist, noted that this upturn in workloads comes despite the continued uncertainty caused by Brexit.
He commented: “After a prolonged period of delays and underinvestment, businesses now appear to be fed up and are proceeding cautiously with new hiring and intentions to invest.”
Mr Matsu warned that with the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, there is likely to be continued volatility within the construction sector in the coming months.
He also explained that much of the increase in work can be attributed to “backfilling or maintaining existing capacity, the requirements of larger projects such as Hinkley Point C and HS2 are constraining growth opportunities elsewhere”.
Within infrastructure, energy, rail and communications are expected to be the best performing sub-sectors.
In terms of regional activity, the RICS survey found that infrastructure activity accelerated in all regions of the UK except Northern Ireland. Chartered surveyors in the country explained that a lack of a functioning devolved government coupled with the Brexit uncertainty is holding the sector back.
The UK’s railways are always a focus when it comes to infrastructure work and many people are hoping the government will be able to deliver real change when it comes to the way in which the country’s railways operate.
Infrastructure Intelligence recently reported on comments made by Keith Williams, the former British Airways boss who is heading up a review of the UK’s rail services.
Mr Williams stressed that the country’s rail network needs “revolution not evolution” and stated that “simply tinkering at the edges will not be credible”.
Among the recommendations he’s set to put forward in the full report due to be delivered in the autumn are for the government to take a step back from the railways and instead use an “arm’s length” body or bodies to help improve the sector’s performance.
Making the industry more customer-focused is another recommendation expected in the review.
Improving the railways themselves and making sure that they’re all in good condition is an important part of that. If you need a modular expansion joint for railway repairs, get in touch with us to find out more about our services.