HIGHWAY AGENCY officials have welcomed Mike Nichols's suggestion that its Targeted Programme of Improvements (TPI) list be scrapped and replaced with a scheme similar to that used by Network Rail.
But contractors voiced concerns that they will be called on to work on schemes ever earlier that may or may not proceed.
'Why would we put forward a brilliant team on phase one when it may or may not proceed, ' said one contractor.
Nichols said that the TPI list allows scheme costs to be fixed too early without sufficient challenge. He is proposing a fourstage programme where costs are not fi nalised until the third, construction phase.
'We recognise that entry into the TPI is not a full commitment to the scheme, ' said an Agency spokesman.
'The idea that we break down the TPI with project identification and development phases, and look to see whether we can afford it later seems eminently sensible.' There are 62 active schemes on the TPI list, eight remitted projects and 43 completed. The types of projects are widening (83%), bypasses (10%) and junctions (7%).
Nichols found that the system itself is one of the root causes of cost escalations along with high infl ion and inadequate estimating. 'Schemes enter the TPI at an early stage in their development when they are surrounded with uncertainty so the estimates are unreliable.' He also said that some schemes were fast-tracked on to the list early to gain 'progress points' used as performance indicators by the Department for Transport (DfT) when assessing Agency performance.
'Without an adequate challenge at the point of TPI entry on clarity-of-scheme objectives, scope and design parameters and preliminary design work, any cost estimates could be no more than rough order of magnitude estimates.' The new system will be fourtiered. First stage is a requirements definition set by the DfT, second, the development phase led by the Agency and third, construction, also led by the Agency.
The final operational stage will be undertaken by the Agency Traffic Operations team.