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Highways England tells A14 bidders to raise their game

A £292M roads contract is being retendered because Highways England was dissatisfied with the quality of bids it received.

The deal to widen a section of the A14 from Swavesey to Milton in Cambridgeshire was thrown back at contractors on lot 3b of the client body’s much-heralded Collaborative Delivery Framework. Contracts will now be awarded later this summer.

Highways England, launched in April to transform the way roads projects are carried out, originally put three legs of the A14 project out to tender in one of the first major procurement processes under the new framework.

But it said only Costain and Skanska met its expectations with their bids for the work.

Those two firms, working in joint venture, were last week awarded two of the three deals - the maximum available to any single team.

Highways England director for complex infrastructure Chris Taylor told NCE: “Skanska/Costain was the only one of the bidders that passed the quality threshold.

“They pressed the right buttons across the range of things we were looking for.

“Highways England has a much wider agenda than [predecessor] the Highways Agency. Skanska/Costain understood what
we were aiming for better than their competitors on this particular bid.”

The other firms on Lot 3b of the collaborative delivery framework, which covers construction contracts greater than £100M, are Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Carillion and a Bam Nuttall/Morgan Sindall joint venture.

Highways England said it had been working with the bidders that missed out.

“The framework is about relationships so we have worked closely to show the bidders why they were unsuccessful,” said Taylor.

“We have invested that time and effort with them so they can understand what wasn’t there that we were looking for.

“It was difficult for them but they are committed to ensuring they meet our expectations. We value the relationship with them.”

The mammoth A14 upgrade scheme could be worth almost a fifth of the total £5bn spend expected to go through the collaborative delivery framework over the next five years.

Highways England replaced the Highways Agency earlier this year. Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton warned last year that the challenge had just begun for the firms named on the panel.

“We can’t afford to take more and more road space; we need to be more innovative,” said Dalton last year.

“For every hour we take a lane out of operation, we need to do more work.

“I expect this group of firms to look afresh at how we go about our work safely and minimise disruption.”

Costain/Skanska will carry out works on the A14 either side of its crossing over the railway at Huntingdon - up to the A1 to the west; and up to the village of Swavesey to the east - under two deals worth a combined £598M.

A separate package for the demolition of the viaduct across the East Coast Mainline at Huntingdon will be tendered through the framework in 2019.

Meanwhile, the £35M detailed design contract for the entire project has been awarded to a joint venture of Atkins and CH2M.

Its initial award is for the development phase but if the scheme is given the go ahead, the joint venture will also provide design support and site assurance services.

The Planning Inspectorate is currently examining a development consent order for the A14, and will make a recommendation to the transportsecretary by early next year.

If the project gets the green light, the scheme would start on site at the end of next year and be completed by 2020.

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