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Minding the Gaps in the Infrastructure Pipeline

by Megan Pounds

“We’re living in a world of uncertainty.” -Simon Rawlinson.

Simon Rawlinson of Arcadis, and Kate Jennings of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE) took to the Infrastructure Hub at UK Construction Week London 2024 to discuss the gaps in the infrastructure pipeline.

The session included an overview of:

The Government Infrastructure Pipeline vs. The Industry Pipeline based on the Beyond the Infrastructure Pipeline whitepaper.

3 Types of Gaps in the Infrastructure Pipeline

Simon began with worldwide context: “We’re living in a world of uncertainty”, with the economy, peace dividends and higher interest rates being the main macro-factors of focus.

Whilst these factors affect the industry as a whole, the session focused on gaps within the infrastructure pipeline.

Policy Gaps 

Simon framed the policy gap as being the gap between what is planned and what is going to happen in reality. Key highlights for this portion of the session included:

  • A gap has existed in infrastructure policy since 2020
  • Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme in the UK– the UK aimed to award a number of CfDs to offshore wind projects however no bids were submitted after developers argued the prices offered by the government were too low.  
  • Net Zero Policy Gap
  • EV Mandates and its lack of planning loses confidence in net zero goals within the public

Information Gaps

Is the public properly informed about the planned activities? Simon highlighted specific areas such as:

  • Simon explained the need to not only highlight this gap but how companies like Barbour ABI are crafting whitepapers like Beyond the Infrastructure Pipeline with industry leaders to acknowledge and analyse the gap
  • Spending is guaranteed till next April however a possible election leaves us with a gap as to what happens next with the Spending Review
  • Consequences of investment programmes
    • Do we have the correct labour force in place?
    • Do we have more port capacity for offshore winds?

Timing Gap

Understanding the short-term, mid-term and long-term decision-making time scales.

This gap circles back to the others as policies such as Net Zero are already affected by the extended timeline of 2050.

Simon also highlighted planning gaps as well as understanding potential gaps with the lack of workforce. For example, it takes 7 years for individuals to finish their engineering apprenticeships and with the current skill shortages, are we prepared for this gap?

Q&A’s about the Infrastructure Pipeline Gap

Barbour ABI’s Head of Demand Generation, Peter Chesters, chaired this session and led the Q&A portion of the talk with Simon and Kate.

Q: Assuming that there is a new government election this year, what difference will it make?

Kate: Whatever happens, when the money runs out, the new government will have to listen to the industry.

Simon: Where the government could make a difference is leaving new stuff alone and work on what’s currently being developed. They need to focus on the supply side of things, this is the only way we’re going to drive growth into the country. We need to focus on making things happen.

Q: The biggest example of the gap right now is HS2, how has that affected the industry?

Kate: This result has been very damaging in the confidence in the UK government. Thus, resulting in a lack of drive of investors choosing the UK and perhaps driving them elsewhere. If the pipeline can have proper backing, planning, and informing then this could result in a more positive ending.

Simon: What we’ve seen is the government trying to build this railway and putting a large amount of strain on the sector. Stopping a project of this size is questionable when a reset is always a better idea.

Q: Kate, do we have the required skills to deliver the programme, and if not, what are we doing about it?

Kate: The skill gap will require a massive focus on upskilling the younger generation. This is actually a nice problem to have, we have jobs in the industry, they just need filling. ACE has a group called ‘Emerging Professionals’. The group was formed to help the emerging generation of consultants and engineers working in the natural and built environments.

Beyond the Infrastructure Pipeline: Opportunities and Chokepoints

Simon was a key expert within the Beyond the Infrastructure Pipeline: Opportunities and Chokepoints.

The  in-depth whitepaper analyses the National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline 2023 and investigates where the gap between national ambition and actual project delivery exists.

Download your copy today in the link highlighted above. 

About the author

Picture of Megan Pounds

Megan Pounds

Megan specialises in SEO, content creation, and campaign production. She has been with Barbour ABI since 2023 and as Marketing Manager she works within all the Barbour ABI companies such as Barbour Product Search and AMA Research.

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