Senior industry sources this week questioned whether the winning consortium in the competition to construct the new Forth Replacement Crossing could build it for its £790M bid, which was £110M lower than had been expected.
Price significantly below estimate
Transport Scotland announced on Monday that the Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC) consortium has been chosen as the preferred bidder for the Forth Replacement Crossing.
FCBC − comprising Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge International and Morrison Construction − bid to build the bridge and connecting roads for £790M at today’s prices, significantly below the initial estimated cost range of £900M to £1.2bn.
Designer for FCBC is a joint venture comprising Grontmij, Gifford, Ramboll and Leonhardt Andra & Partners.
The consortium was chosen over Forthspan, a consortium of Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall, Bam Nuttall and MT Hojgaard, following an 18 month competitive tendering process.
One contractor source close to the scheme told NCE they were “surprised” that FCBC’s successful bid for the design and build contract was so low.
“We believe it is a very robust bid at a realistic price”
Ainslee McLaughlin, Transport Scotland
A construction industry insider added: “I wouldn’t like to be one of those companies going forward. Either there was a really high amount of money allocated to it or they are really cutting it close.”
Transport Scotland set up a special team three years ago to take the project through design development and through the legislative process in the Scottish Parliament, led by project director David Climie, formerly of Bechtel.
“Price reflects market”
Speaking to NCE, Transport Scotland director of major transport infrastructure projects Ainslie McLaughlin said that the winning bid “is a very competitive price that reflects the competitive market we are buying in”.
He told NCE that the price excludes inflation, and Transport Scotland confirmed that the price is adjustable using an agreed formula, with the contractor taking 10% of the inflation risk.
“We believe it is a very robust bid at a realistic price,” he added.
However, former Amey infrastructure director John Carson said that the winning bid price showed that “Transport Scotland dramatically inflated the price” in the tender.
“It did this so it didn’t get it wrong, but it wasn’t sure how much it was going to cost,” he said.
With the new costs for the main bridge, the overall cost of the whole project has fallen from between £1.7bn and £2.3bn to £1.47 and £1.6bn.
The contract is set to be signed in April, with construction on the cable-stayed bridge starting on site soon after. The bridge should be open in 2016, when it will replace the current Forth Road Bridge as the main crossing for cross-Forth traffic.
The new bridge is required following a loss of strength in the cables of the original road bridge.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association in Scotland said savings made from the projected cost should be used to improve the rest of Scotland’s transport network. CECA (Scotland) chief executive Alan Watt said that the winning £790M bid represented “a considerable saving”.