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Concerns voiced over new highways specs

HIGHWAYS AGENCY officials said this week they would introduce new highway performance specifications despite concerns voiced by contractors and consultants.

Concerns related to methods of assessing the safety performance of highways under the new outcome-based performance specifications.

It has analysed more than 50 responses to a consultation on the subject which was carried out last year (NCE 8 May 2003).

Performance will be measured in six streams:

lsafety ljourney time reliability lenvironment lcustomer satisfaction lnetwork best value lsupplier capability of performance.

Thirty seven per cent of firms consulted by the Agency said that elements outside the control of contractors should not be measured on an outcome basis on the grounds of increased risk and difficulty of measurement.

But two thirds of respondents also said that the specification would encourage innovation and 44% said that it would improve efficiency.

Respondents also warned that the cost and time needed for tendering would increase.

Existing specifications give detailed instructions on how work should be carried out.

Performance specifications will define what is delivered rather than how it is delivered.

It is hoped that this will give contractors more scope to innovate.

The Agency's specification bible, the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, will be redrawn to reflect the new approach.

A formal development programme is now under way and the Agency hopes to have a new version ready by the end of the year.

This would be in time to incorporate the new specification into the major design build finance and operate widening schemes on the M1, M6 and M25.

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