HALCROW has supplanted Atkins as top scoring consultant in the Highways Agency's Capability Assessment Toolkit (CAT) supplier rating system, NCE can exclusively reveal this week.
With the independent validation of consultants almost complete, Halcrow appears to have scored a massive 70 out of 72.
Atkins took top place last year with just 63.
This is the second year that CAT has been used to assess and rank consultants and contractors, according to 18 different criteria. These mainly relate to corporate culture.
Consultants and contractors use CAT scores as a basis for selecting tender partners for ECI contracts.
The top fi ve scorers have the best chance of making tender lists for work over £5M, with the score making up 70% of its vendor rating.
A second assessment of a fi m's past performance makes up the remaining 30%.
This year 49 fi rms have been assessed by the Highways Agency. Around fi ve fi rms have also chosen to stick with last year's score.
Scores are not revealed by the Agency on the grounds that it is not in the public interest (see box). But NCE can this week reveal confirmed scores for 43.
Second-placed consultant is KBR with 69. Joint third is Jacobs Babtie and WSP.
Top contractor this year appears to be Costain, which matched Halcrow's score of 70.
Nuttall has taken second place with 67.
Overall scores have increased by around 12% this year, raising concerns that the system may be losing its value and leave little room for improvement. All firms seeking reassessment have seen their scores improve.
'The concern is that all scores have been upgraded, and in some cases doubled. Can everybody really be that good-' said one contractor.
'I'd be surprised if everyone has really improved, ' added a consultant.
Halcrow has leapt to the top of the rankings after a disappointing score of 52 last year.
Managing director for transportation Alasdair Coates attributed the high score to a number of improvement initiatives, including 'Act Now', an internal scheme aimed at all levels of the company.
Costain also made significant improvements on last year's score of 60.
Operations director for major civils Alan Kay defended the high score.
'Costain has been a strong supporter of the CAT initiative because it offers companies an in-depth third party assessment and examines a contractor's structure and strategy to see whether both are suited to the client's needs.
The Costain team has worked extremely hard on business improvement in the past 12 months. This has resulted in an increased CAT score and it was particularly pleasing to receive recognition for health and safety which remains of paramount importance to the company.' High-Point Rendel, Laing O'Rourke, Lafarge, Gleeson, May Gurney, Colas, Associated Asphalt, Tarmac, Arup, Aggregate Industries, Bardon and Morgan Est declined to confirm scores.