Road, Rail, Sea and Sky: Civil Engineering in 2022
The Chancellor's 2021 Spending Review (SR21) pounced on forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) of an average inflation rate across 2022 of 4% and economic growth of 6.5%. SR21 seemed to suit perfectly The Prime Minister's natural instincts for spending. His plans for Boris Island may have been scuppered, but he appears to remain dedicated to infrastructure spending and 2022 is set to be a bumper year in the civil engineering sector. Not only that, but most of the projects announced recently will take several years to complete, which means we're in a very fruitful period for road, rail, maritime and aviation development.
On the roads, Colas has been awarded a contract worth £328 million to maintain the major roads in Area 9, which is the biggest of the 14 National Highways regions. It encompasses large parts of the Midlands and extends towards the Welsh border and the Cotswolds. Colas will be responsible for maintenance repairs, extreme weather services and specialist emergency provision in a deal which will last for 8 years and sees them taking over from Kier. The company promises to keep its focus on the reduction of carbon emissions and at the same time deliver a first-class service.
We seem to have been talking about the Crossrail project in London forever. The idea was first mooted in the 1880s and its modern iteration dates back to the 1970s although it didn't reach an advanced stage until the 1990s. Now, nearly 30 years later, after several lengthy delays, it is hoped that the brand new Elizabeth Line will open in 2022. Despite its troubled track record, it emerges from the years of planning and construction as a staggering feat of civil engineering, stretching more than 60 miles from Reading to Abbey Wood, serviced by a fleet of 66 state-of-the-art 200-metre, nine-carriage air-conditioned trains, all of them British built. Once it passes through its Trial Running and Trial Operations programmes, it will be open to the public.
While Crossrail reaches its culmination, High Speed 2 still has over a decade of construction ahead of it, but the government has made what must be considered an irrevocable commitment to the project. In 2022 we can expect to see a number of significant milestones, including the start of construction of the Colne Valley viaduct and the excavation of the Northolt, Bromford and Long Itchington Wood tunnels. While this work is happening on the ground, new contracts for work further to the north will be awarded, such as the one for the Birmingham Interchange station. The ball is well and truly rolling, and every year from now until the start of the next decade will see major civil engineering works.
Network Rail is embarking on a major upgrade to the station at Gatwick Airport to accommodate the sharply increasing numbers of commuters, business travellers and holidaymakers. The work will continue into 2023 and represents a critical contribution to the growth of the local economy, which depends heavily on this international airport.
Decarbonising the Maritime Sector
In 2021 five projects to decarbonise the sector with offshore wind solutions won funding from the Department of Transport. The one generating the biggest headlines is the National Clean Maritime Demonstration Hub at Grimsby docks, which is already the world's biggest port providing offshore wind operations and maintenance. Expected to be operational by 2023, it will be a supply chain hub that will turn Grimsby into one of the world's first clean maritime clusters, with a zero-emission fuel supply and innovative technological facilities to provide carbon-free alternatives to fuel commercial vessels from all over the world. While this kind of project may not have the same kerb appeal as some, its contribution to and influence over the greening of the shipping industry could be world-changing.