UK construction must double output to achieve infrastructure pipeline, say Arcadis

The UK construction industry needs to significantly increase its rate of infrastructure delivery to more than £95,000 of output per minute for the next decade to come even close to meeting national ambitions, says Arcadis. 

While demand for new infrastructure is creating an unprecedented opportunity to create jobs and drive growth, actually delivering the UK’s ambitions will mean more than doubling historic peak output of £20bn a year. This will require a major step- change in how construction is planned and delivered in the UK.

The Arcadis report, Opportunity Knocks: Delivering the UK’s Infrastructure Pipeline, brings together experience taken from working on major programmes with government, asset owners, investors, and construction delivery partners. It sets out six key success factors aimed at ensuring planned infrastructure programmes are deliverable.  

Arcadis says that the opportunities for the industry are huge, with more major infrastructure programmes simultaneously underway than ever before. The Greater London region alone will see over £28bn of infrastructure investment in the next four years, including Thames Tideway Tunnel, as well as significant investment in the rail network. 

Meanwhile the Northern Powerhouse region, which includes Manchester and Leeds, has more than £13bn of combined infrastructure opportunity to 2021, with schemes such as the Manchester Airport Transformation Programme and Network Rail’s Transpennine Route Upgrade all coming to the fore.

Arcadis’ assessment is based on the current iteration of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline (NICP), which features upwards of £500bn of infrastructure spend over the next ten years. However, as Arcadis points out in its report, although the NICP represents the largest potential spend seen so far on infrastructure, it actually understates the real scale of the opportunity. 

For example, the NICP currently excludes some of the UK’s most important future programmes, such as Heathrow’s proposed third runway and Highways England’s Lower Thames Crossing. Equally, future programmes to adapt existing infrastructure related to disruptive technologies, such as autonomous vehicles or the battery storage of energy, could also come to market in the next ten years but don’t feature in the pipeline. 

With construction of such a large infrastructure pipeline now underway, competition is rife for access to the best supply chain, technology, and design and delivery talent. Operating in this increasingly crowded market is putting the industry under growing pressure to meet targets, forcing new delivery approaches if the industry is to keep pace. 

Greg Bradley, head of UK business advisory at Arcadis, commented: “With some of the most complex and technically challenging projects now underway, the industry is under more pressure and facing more competition to deliver than ever before. We have a massive opportunity here to upgrade our much needed infrastructure networks, and to do things differently. From new roads, railways, power plants and utility networks to new technologies and Smart Cities, there has never been a more exciting opportunity to transform how we plan and deliver projects.

“The need to double construction output on infrastructure is no small task, and it will force us to do things differently. The industry needs to look at innovating on a massive scale to achieve the step-change required, including upscaling digital solutions, offsite manufacture and offshore design, investment in skills and training, sharing of resources and better alignment with regional development agendas. We also need to continue to collaborate across sectors and the supply chain to help speed up the pace of delivery.”

Click here to download the Opportunity Knocks report.

If you would like to contact Andy Walker about this, or any other story, please email