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Last updateThu, 16 Jun 2022 8am

There’s light at the end of at least one tunnel, even if the bridges have gone

Construction National blog logoWell, a Happy New Year to everybody now we've finally made it into 2013. It's that time of year when everybody is trying to make sense of what happened last year and find something – anything! – to cheer us up for the coming 12 months. The NHBC duly obliged, with a cautious optimism following slightly improved registration figures for the three months from September to November: 26,420 compared to 24,731 in the same period last year.

Its commercial director Richard Tamayo said: "2012 has generally not lived up to the hopes we held for it; however as we approach its end there are signs that activity is picking up. Government backed schemes such as NewBuy and Funding for Lending will hopefully provide further support in the New Year to those who have desired to own a home but in the past experienced difficulties obtaining mortgages. Hopefully 2013 can consolidate and then build on this momentum."

• Infrastructure projects continue to be the Holy Grail of the industry, with rail and energy generation looking to lift the gloom. Over the Christmas period Crossrail demolished three rail bridges to allow extra headroom for its new trains. However, the new bridges won't be installed until Easter! In the meantime the poor old commuters will experience more disruption with the placing of diversions to remind them of the relief in prospect.

• A fascinating 'outsider's' insight into the world of the civil service was provided on New Year's Day by the government's former Chief Construction Advisor, Paul Morrell. Mr Morrell stepped down at the end of November and wrote of his time as a 'de facto civil servant' in Management Today.

As the former senior partner of Davis Langdon he has had extensive experience of what is still seen as both sides of a divide, which he described as "...as real and as unhelpful at CP Snow's 'two cultures'." His conclusions are undeniably sensible: that the civil servant's instinct for service could well be helpful in the private sector, while the civil service might learn that the rigid hierarchy it sees as the inevitable way of doing things is not necessarily the only way.

There was one part of the article that was a little chilling. He states that, of the 19 manifestos, or 'wish lists' he received from the construction sector before the 2010 election: "To the best of my knowledge, not one of them was read by ministers, either in power or in waiting."

He waters down the rather startling news by pointing out that much lobbying by the industry is either ineffectual or just plain 'moaning'.

He justifiably points to a major success during his time as the commitment to reduce the cost of projects in the public sector by 15-20% in real terms – the school building element of which was reported in this column in Construction National on 9 October – although he modestly declines to take the credit for it.

Chris Stokes