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Revealed: What Heathrow wants from expansion contractors

Morgan sindall at heathrow

Engineers looking to win work on Heathrow’s £14bn expansion scheme must demonstrate that they can design for offsite assembly, New Civil Engineer can reveal. 

Expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham told New Civil Engineer that when procurement for the first expansion projects begins in around six months’ time, HAL will be looking for candidates who can design for offsite assembly.

Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) is in the process of designating four logistics hubs, one of which will be in Scotland, where components will be built before being transported to the airport and assembled.

“We will need a team which can actually work that out and can componentise the design from a very early stage,” he said.

“We want the thought process from the designers and the contractors to be ‘let’s do as much of this as we possibly can at the factory’, because it’s safer and high quality, and then we really just want to assemble on site. So construction is a word that dies and assembly is a word we start using.”

Wilbraham added that although responses were positive so far, it would rely on engineers wanting to do things differently when it came to early projects such as moving and lowering the M25.

“We won’t be briefing it as, ‘we want this building’ – we’ll be briefing it as, ‘we want this building, but we’re expecting this to be made in factories in components’,” he said.

“I suspect the issue will become, once we actually start doing this, to enable enough people to understand what we’re talking about, because we’re suddenly going to want to go quite fast with this programme, and so it’ll be finding enough people who want to understand and want to learn.”

There is uncertainty over next week’s Commons vote on expansion after Labour said it would not back the third runway, although its MPs will have a free vote. Yesterday (Thursday) Conservative minister for international trade Greg Hands resigned so that he could vote against expansion.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed he will join a legal challenge with several London boroughs if the vote passes, which Transport for London is expected to join.

Despite this, Wilbraham said HAL is confident that the third runway will go ahead.

“We are not contemplating losing the vote. There is no contemplation of that. This has been a very long piece of work through the Airports Commission, working with the DfT, and here we are at a point in time where things are all coming together in the right way,” he said.

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