RAILTRACK HAS blamed 'the wrong sort of skills' for the small number of civil engineering companies to make it onto a key shortlist for major project programme managers.
Britain's biggest civils client this week revealed that it had invited ten companies - out of 69 that submitted prequalification documents - to tender for the role of programme manager on Railtrack's major projects.
But most firms on the shortlist are understood to come from outside the civil engineering sector - mainly from process engineering and management consulting. Twenty three civil engineering contractors and consultants have submitted pre-qualification documents.
Railtrack major projects director Simon Murray explained that civil engineers do not have the required skills.
'The view has been that we need strong project management but what we really need is programme management,' he said. 'We need companies with a high degree of competence in systems engineering. Civil engineering companies are not so good for this. '
He added: 'The industry has tried to rebadge project management as programme management. But there is a difference. Programme management is about co- ordinating an array of many projects - a bit like building an airliner or a warship. It is only partly about being on time and budget.'
Brown & Root is known to have made it on to the list despite losing its lead role on West Coast Main Line in the Murray-inspired management reshuffle last Easter. Bechtel, Mace and Fluor Daniel are also thought to be shortlisted.
Railtrack will select three of the ten firms to sign long term framework deals for major projects including the West Coast and East Coast Main Line route upgrades and Thameslink 2000. Bidding should take around five weeks with Railtrack taking two more months to make its selection.
Murray explained that, as recommended in a report by management consultant Nichols, Railtrack will take a more 'hands on' role on its major projects than in the past. This, he said, would include the use of more senior Railtrack staff managing the major projects.