Despite the recent rise in inflation, energy prices and the general cost of living, the United Kingdom’s economic outlook is brighter than expected. Following a lack of economic growth in recent months, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced the UK is still on track to avoid another feared recession, according to the BBC.
While the country’s construction industry took a hit in January — with monthly outputs decreasing by 1.7%, causing cost overruns and delayed completion dates — the sector showed a strong recovery in February. At the same time, the Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecasts the UK will need an additional 225,000 construction workers by 2027 to keep up with demand.
But what could possibly require that kind of workforce?
As home to some of the largest construction projects, such as the High Speed Rail or Battersea Power Station Redevelopment, the UK is no stranger to impressive feats of civil engineering. In fact, we already did a whole list of megaprojects in the UK for 2021, highlighting six large infrastructure projects and mixed-use developments already under construction. This year, we’re covering seven new megaprojects currently breaking ground in 2023.
7 Mega Construction Projects Underway in the United Kingdom
Here are the top seven megaprojects to watch this year and beyond:
1. Liverpool Street Station
The Liverpool Street Station is a historic railway station located in central London, serving about 64 million passengers annually. Recently, Sellar Property Group, Mass Transit Railway (MTR) and the station’s owner, Network Rail, announced a controversial £1.5 billion redevelopment plan to overhaul the property into a “new landmark destination.”
The developers intend to remove the original roof and entrance to construct a 10-storey hotel and office block above the station. However, this has caused some controversy among several preservation groups, which argue the plan would alter a historic landmark and threaten views from the neighbouring St. Paul Cathedral. While construction on the station has yet to break ground, Sellar and Network Rail argue the plans would relieve congestion and enhance the passenger experience.
2. New Hospital Programme
During his time as prime minister, Boris Johnson garnered some positive press after promising to build 40 new hospitals across the country by 2030. The planned £3.7 billion New Hospital Programme would allow National Health Service (NHS) Trusts to bid for funds that would go toward large infrastructure projects and improving existing facilities.
However, with a rapidly increasing cost overrun, the programme and its promises were on the verge of falling through in 2022. Several projects ran significantly over budget, including the Royal Crown Hospital, Watford General Hospital and facilities in Hemel Hempstead and St. Albans. Meanwhile, a £2 billion budget shortfall and ongoing inflation have caused officials to delay proposed projects.
As the nation’s economy bounces back from the brink of recession, it will be interesting to see how the delivery and completion of this ambitious project will pan out.
3. Tideway Sewer System
The Thames Tideway Sewer System is a 25 km tunnel designed to collect, store and transfer over 95% of the waste out of the River Thames. Construction on the tunnel has already begun, with a completion date set in the first half of 2025 and an estimated cost of £4.4 billion.
Once it’s finished, Tideway aims to assist London’s currently overloaded sewer infrastructure by creating an additional 1.6 million cubic metres of storage. This would drastically reduce the tens of millions of tonnes that spill into the River Thames each year.
4. Heathrow Airport Expansion
Since 2009, there have been plans to construct a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport — the busiest airport in Europe. Proponents argue the £14 billion expansion would generate an estimated £61 billion in economic growth and 77,000 local jobs, citing a study from 2016. However, environmental groups have long opposed the plans, criticising the potential impacts on the UK’s commitment to go net zero by 2050.
While there was some movement prior to 2020, the expansion plan is seemingly on an indefinite pause following pandemic losses and legal challenges.
5. London Crossrail Project
Although London’s Crossrail (also known as the Elizabeth Line) opened to passengers in May of 2022, the project has yet to finish the final major customer upgrade. Set to start in May 2023, the end of this last phase will mark the completion of London’s 23-year, £25 billion railway project.
Once completed, the Crossrail project will span all 42 km of the Elizabeth line, taking travellers from Paddington to Liverpool Street Station in around 10 minutes. The route will connect with 41 stations, serving an estimated 200 million passengers each year.
6. Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station
As one of eight new nuclear power stations announced back in 2010, Hinkley Point C is the only one currently under construction. While it won’t be a source of renewable energy, the low-carbon power plant will produce an estimated 7% of the UK’s total electricity.
However, delays, supply chain disruptions and inflation have all contributed to an estimated £40 billion construction cost. Meanwhile, the earliest date for electricity generation from Unit 1 was also pushed back from 2025 to June 2026. Regardless, the completion of Hinkley Point C will mark the first new nuclear power plant to open in the UK in over 20 years.
7. High Speed 2
High Speed 2 (HS2) is one of the most expensive megaprojects in the UK’s history. Compared to the California High Speed Rail project, which comes in at around $77 billion, HS2 is expected to cost as much as £98 billion.
Whereas High Speed 1, Britain’s first high-speed rail project, connects London to the Channel Tunnel, HS2 will connect stations spanning from London to Manchester with extensions to Birmingham and the East Midlands. Currently, the project is split into three phases, with the final Phase 2B set to complete around 2045.
Sky-High Costs: The Top 5 Most Expensive Megaprojects Under Construction
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