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Crossrail boss sets out tunnelling decision

European firms were the big winners in £1.25bn worth of tunnelling contracts awarded by Crossrail this week.

Crossrail programme director Andy Mitchell told NCE that the delivery organisation had not sought out either UK or HS1 expertise as a prerequisite, nor were such qualities rewarded in the tender process.

Spanish giant wins £500M contract

Crossrail revealed that a joint venture (JV) of Spanish construction giant Dragados and Irish contractor John Sisk had won the longest, 11.95km eastern running tunnels contract worth £500M, while the team of Bam Nuttall, Spanish firm Ferrovial and Kier (BFK) had succeeded in winning its combined bid for the Western running tunnels and station shafts and sprayed concrete lining works for Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations – together also worth £500M.

But other UK contractors and those who had teamed up to take advantage of their experience of working on High Speed 1 (HS1) lost out. Costain and Skanska had teamed up to bring their separate HS1 experiences together (NCE 10 September 2009) and brought in German giant Bilfinger Berger but walked away from this round with nothing.

It said it was now 100% focused on winning the remaining bored tunnelling contract to be let, the 2.64km long Thames tunnel from North Woolwich to Plumstead.

“There is a lot left from Crossrail for us,” said a spokesman.

HS1 veterans lose out

Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and Morgan Sindall along with Austrian Alpine BeMo, Vinci Construction Grands Projets boasted much tunnelling experience both at home – including on HS1 – and on the Continent but also missed out on the main tunnelling work.

However, the team won the £250M remaining associated tunnel works on the central section for access shafts and sprayed concrete lining works at Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations.

“It was more important to have experience of TBMs and SCL tunnels”

Andy Mitchell

“It was an open competition – it always had to be – and people knew exactly how we were going to assess their bids.” said Mitchell. “We certainly weren’t looking for HS1 experience, it was more important to have experience of technically challenging tunnel boring machines (TBMs) and sprayed concrete lining (SCL) tunnels.”

John Sisk and Dragados is a relatively untested partnership having teamed up in late 2009 to work on the Shanganagh Sewerage scheme in Ireland. Individually Sisk worked on the Limerick immersed tube tunnel and Dragados has much experience on Spanish railway tunnels including the Madrid metro.

Mitchell emphasised that the technical assessment on each bid had been a 60/40 split of technical ability and price.

The BFK consortuim’s bid for the 6.16km long tunnel combined with the access shafts and platform tunnels for the two stations included the innovative proposal of reversing the sequence of work to help Crossrail make substantial savings.

Bids “major contribution” to £1bn savings

Mitchell said two consortiums on the west section – BFK and an unnamed other – had proposed building the platform tunnels and access shafts after the TBM drives as an alternative to the conforming plan where the process involved the station work first.

Kier and Dutch giant Bam resurrected their HS1 JV, which built the twin tunnels between Barking and Dagenham. Spanish firm Ferrovial has been brought into the JV, bringing with it experience of deep station work on Spanish metro schemes.

Mitchell said there was a “generally good/high quality of tender submissions” and in a statement Crossrail said the bids had made a major contribution to £1bn project savings.

Mitchell said that revised costs were submitted to the government in light of the resequencing that put the price tag at a maximum of £14.8bn, down from £15.9bn.
The government has recently cited £14.5bn; Mitchell said this was still an aspiration and that Crossrail continued to pursue further efficiencies.

He added that as the organisation moves on from the tunnelling contract awards, it was looking at its structure and that of its delivery partners including Bechtel/Systra/Halcrow. “We’ve had an organisation that’s done a good job at getting us where we are,” he said. “But one of the things we’re now focusing on is how to make the organisation the best it can be, and more integrated.”

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