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Hochtief/Murphy scoops Crossrail Thames tunnel

German contracting giant Hochtief in joint venture with J Murphy & Sons has scooped Crossrail’s Thames Tunnel contract, NCE can reveal.

Scheme promoter Crossrail is understood to have made its decision and will go public once the Treasury has completed its final review of the Crossrail project on 6 April.

The 6 April review date is the final review point for the scheme and signals greater independence for Crossrail from the Department for Transport (DfT).

After that date, Crossrail will no longer need to liaise with the DfT before letting each contract, so it is expected that the station contracts will follow soon after the review.

The 2.64km long Thames tunnel between Plumstead and North Woolwich − worth between £250M and £400M − will be driven through predominantly chalky ground using a slurry tunnel boring machine (TBM).

“The news will be another blow to UK contractors”

The Hochtief/J Murphy partnership beat off competition from joint ventures comprising: Alpine-Bemo/Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering/Morgan Sindall/Vinci Construction Grands Projets; Bam Nuttall/Ferrovial Agroman/Kier Construction; Bilfinger Berger Civil/Costain/Skanska Construction UK; and Bouygues Travaux Publics/Laing O’Rourke Construction and Strabag.

The news will be yet another blow to UK contractors Balfour Beatty, Costain, Skanska and Laing O’Rourke which also featured in the failed bid teams for the two central running tunnel contracts let in December (NCE 16 December 2010). None of them are on the shortlist for the remaining tunnelling contract for the £25M to £100M Connaught Tunnel refurbishment.

Vinci for Connaught tunnel

NCE understands that Vinci is poised to take the contract for the tricky 550m long Connaught tunnel, which is also expected to be let soon after 6 April. Bam Nuttall, the Hochtief/J Murphy JV and Barhale/VolkerFitzpatrick JV had been in the running.

The Hochtief and J Murphy partnership brings with it slurry TBM experience from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1). Murphy has more recently added cable tunnels for the Olympics to its project portfolio.

The UK-based contractors will now be pinning their hopes on winning some of the key station contracts.

Speaking to NCE late last year Crossrail programme director Andy Mitchell said the station contracts would be let from late summer. These include the work at Farringdon, worth between £250M and £400M and work at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, which are all expected to be worth between £100M and £250M.

Crossrail restructuring likely

Sources also told NCE that the Treasury review will be swiftly followed by an announcement on the restructuring of Crossrail and its delivery partners Crossrail Central and Transcend.

NCE understands that this is likely to result in a dramatically diminished responsibility − and contract value − for providers including Crossrail Central leader Bechtel. Sources said that the firms had failed to contribute enough innovation to the scheme.

It is accepted, however, that innovation had been hampered by changes to the project following last year’s change of government and last October’s Comprehensive Spending Review (NCE 28 October 2010).

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