As the construction industry continues to struggle with a shortage of concrete supplies that has driven up prices, builders have laid the blame for the shortages on the HS2 high-speed rail project and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station scheme.
The Telegraph reports that construction firms have claimed that smaller firms and builders are unable to compete with the huge projects for materials.
Ian Anfield, the managing director of Hudson Contract told the newspaper: “Big schemes like HS2 put in massive orders and agree their prices well in advance, which means the suppliers are committed, whereas your typical local builder is used to just ringing up his supplier on the day.”
He added that many of the firm’s clients have complained about being able to source materials for a few months, and most are saying that HS2 has caused the issue.
Anfield said that the preparatory works for the project are ‘absolutely colossal’, and the requirement for millions of tonnes of sand and cement for the project means they cannot also be sent to concrete batching plants that intend to sell concrete to other builders.
He said that a client working on a National Highways project was told that they were ‘second in the queue’ behind HS2 for supplies and materials.
However, other industry spokespeople have claimed that HS2 is not to blame and have instead highlighted the impact of the HGV driver shortage and the increase in demand caused by the economic recovery post-pandemic.
The British Merchants Federation (BMF) and the Construction Products Association (CPA) have established a task force with the government and major schemes including HS2 and the Hinkley to monitor the situation.
BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “The problems we are seeing are more down to the supply chain crisis, so I do not think HS2 and other big projects are affecting availability.”
The BMF and the CPA have warned their members to expect double-digit price rises for a host of materials in the coming months due to manufacturers passing on the costs of the energy crisis.
According to recent reports, cement producers are planning to hike prices by £15 a tonne due to the high energy costs, which would equate to a 16 per cent increase in prices, and is likely to come into force by the end of the year. This would take the annual increase in the price of cement to 30 per cent over the past 12 months.
HS2 has been estimated to use as much as 20 million tonnes of concrete, which is brought the same amount produced in the UK every year.
However, a spokesperson for HS2 said they ‘did not recognise’ the 19.7 million tonnes of concrete, and said the first phase of the project was on course to use 13 million tonnes.
In June transport minister Andrew Stephenson said the government did not have ‘any information to suggest that HS2 is having a material impact on material availability or pricing’ of construction materials but was monitoring the situation.
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