Slump in rail work blamed for first infrastructure decline in five years

A new study has revealed that a slump in workloads on the UK’s railways has dragged the infrastructure sector into its first quarterly decline in five years.

Findings from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)’s Workload Trends Survey for 2017 Q4, has found that for the first time since 2013 workloads fell, according to 4% of British firms, on balance. Five out of ten sectors reported falling workloads, on balance, with railways recording the weakest balance (-32%). In comparison, the survey found that work orders for British firms in general were down by an average of 10% in the same period.

Commenting on the research, CECA’s director of external affairs, Marie-Claude Hemming, believes it shows the government must play a bigger role in ensuring that new rail projects get off the ground.

“These disappointing figures show that more must be done to unlock planned infrastructure investment and bring schemes to market,” she added. “CECA calls on government to do more, by committing to projects outlined in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, and to continue to develop projects to add to this pipeline to secure the future of the UK economy. Our hopes are that the decline in workloads during 2017 Q4 are representative of a pause in activity, rather than a sign of broader decline.”

Responding to the results, Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA) said: “Disappointingly, CECA’s Workload Trends Survey published today shows that work in rail is declining further than other major infrastructure sectors. This is a graphic illustration of the impact the ‘boom and bust’ funding of rail investment is having in the UK, where rail suppliers see large ramp-ups in workloads in the early part of the five-year control period before steep drop-offs a year or two later.

"Not only does this make renewing and enhancing the railway more expensive, but for rail suppliers it results in freezing recruitment, making redundancies and cutting back on innovation and training. Given rail’s standing in today’s survey, it is clearly time for the industry – government, Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road, suppliers and other key rail organisations – to come together to work out a way to end ‘boom and bust’."

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email