Streetworks sector should look ahead with ‘optimism’, says new report

There is ‘substantial’ grounds for optimism for the future of the UK streetworks sector although some questions remain over how the sector will change as a result of the pandemic, according to a new report by the one.network-Work in Progress.

Despite this, it said the top six works promoters commissioned over 50,000 works each. This was almost ten times the average, with organisations conducting a averageof 5,481 works in 2020 (105 per week), illuminating
the volume of smaller organisations for whom streetworks are nonetheless
vital.

The report, an assessment of the sector over the last year, but also a public-facing one to help the public gain a better understanding of streetworks said: “2021 is still in its infancy, and it remains to be seen how our emergence from lockdown will change the streetworks industry. But if the past year is anything to go by, we have substantial grounds for optimism.”

“It is testament to the resilience of the utility sector, and its many contractors, that works on Britain’s roads in 2020 barely flinched. Lockdown has been challenging enough for many; we can all be grateful that we did not face mass broadband, gas, electricity, or water disruptions alongside it,” it said.

The report found ‘dramatic’ drops in the number of roadworks in both
April and early September 2020. The week of the 6th of April saw the fewest roadworks in 2020, with a large 46% decrease from the past three-year average. This fall coincided with the first national lockdown in the UK, as we might expect: a large percentage of road work plans were halted due to restrictions.

The second fall, in September, saw a similar drop (40%). This roughly correlates with the extension of the Government’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme, designed to bolster the struggling restaurant industry, and it’s possible that roadworks staff took some much-needed holiday to coincide with the incentive and loosened restrictions, according to the report.

But mid-September saw roadworks rocket back up, both in real terms and compared to the historical average, but the lockdown in November saw another decline. Even so, overall in 2020 there was a 4.8% decrease in works compared to the average of the last three years.

“It seems, then, that local authorities, utilities companies, and contracting
firms managed to undertake the vast majority of necessary works on
UK roads, successfully compensating for productivity loss in restricted
months by completing more works in later ones,” added the report.

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