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O'Sullivan reveals procurement thinking

Night roadworks

Highways England is looking at ways to award work based on contractors’ performance as part of its new procurement model, chief executive Jim O’Sullivan has revealed.

The client announced earlier this year that it would be replacing its Collaborative Delivery Framework (CDF) with a new-look contractor panel to be known as Routes to Market. Instead of creating lots by contract size, Highways England will use a region-by-region approach.

O’Sullivan told New Civil Engineer that the highways body was looking at ways to award work through the new framework to contractors according to their performance.

“I think that everybody is looking at the contracting model, and I think we all recognise that preparing bids is expensive,” he says. [Bidding’s] big advantage is that you can instantly justify the award of the contract if you’re challenged; its downside is that it’s expensive, and I’m not quite sure that it adds much value.”

Contractors could be judged by the client on how well a scheme is delivered, added value, efficiency and value for money, O’Sullivan added.

Meanwhile he denied that poor planning was to blame for recent changes to the timings of more than 30 road schemes, many of which have been pushed back into Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2), which runs from 2020 to 2025, or pulled forward.

“I think it was a feature of becoming Highways England,” he said. The Highways Agency became Highways England in 2015 when RIS1 began.

“I think people were very nervous in the first year about changing anything in the five-year RIS because the whole approach was to bring control. But I think as we’ve got further into it and become more confident, we felt it was OK to revisit this, to see this as a challenge and to change it.”

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