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Number of construction cranes halved in 2012

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Tower crane numbers have fallen to their lowest in over two years, sparking fears for the ‘poor health’ of the construction industry

Research by law firm Pinsent Masons shows only 413 tower cranes were erected around the UK in the first six months of 2012 – almost half the figure for the same period in 2011, reported sister title Construction News.

They said 200 of these were concentrated in London.

Pinsent Masons said it is ‘symbolic of the sharp falls in new commercial construction, deep cuts in capital spending being made by the public sector, and the current lack of positive UK infrastructure policy’.

They say the research demonstrates the ‘most tangible evidence yet of a dearth of major infrastructure projects’, which it says is required to boost the construction industry, create jobs and alleviate youth unemployment.

Graham Robinson, Global Business Consultant in the Infrastructure Sector at Pinsent Masons, said: ‘People often look at the number of cranes as a barometer of the health of UK construction.

‘If that is correct, then we should be concerned. The lack of cranes on UK skylines is symbolic of the sharp falls in new commercial and public-sector construction seen in the last year and the lack of positive UK infrastructure policy.

‘It is also a sign that construction projects are getting smaller, forcing larger construction companies to compete for smaller projects.’

Pinsent Masons says that problems in construction have led to significant job losses, with almost 400,000 - or 16.5 per cent of the entire UK construction sector workforce - laid off since the start of the financial crisis to the end of June 2012.

This compares with 8.5 per cent for manufacturing and 9.1 per cent for all production industries.

Robinson welcomed some progress, such as the UK Guarantee Scheme, but said it has so far not extended to local projects. He said the market is ‘expecting clearer policy statements’.

The data shows that:

  • only 413 tower cranes were erected around the UK in the first six months of 2012 – almost half the figure for the same period in 2011
  • the picture in London is particularly stark. Only 200 cranes appeared on the capital’s skyline in the past six months compared to 366 for the same period in 2011, a fall of 45
  • the dearth of major construction projects in UK cities outside London is worse with an overall fall of over 50 per cent. While 200 cranes have been erected in London in the first half of 2012, only 28 have been established across major UK cities including Aberdeen (2), Birmingham (7), Edinburgh (8), Glasgow (3), Manchester (8), and Leeds (0) over the same period
  • of the cities surveyed, Glasgow has been subject to a steep drop-off in projects, with an 85 per cent drop off in new cranes being erected


LocationH1 2011H2 2011H1 2012


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Readers' comments (1)

  • 5 have been erected in this period within a few minutes walk of our office in Bristol in this period. Usually we can none.

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