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JLE progress: a contractor's view

As Balfour Beatty-Amec's former and current project directors in charge of Contract 102 at Westminster and Waterloo, Colin Mackenzie and Clive Pollard have been well placed to give a view on how the job has progressed.

'On behalf of the team at Westminster and Waterloo the project has been a success,' says Mackenzie. 'We have achieved things here that have never been done before. Compensation grouting, for example, had never been done on this scale and was staggeringly efficient.'

Certainly this situation is representative of all the contracts on the job, which have achieved technical feats never before attempted in London. The JLE was the biggest project ever undertaken by LUL - bigger than the Victoria Line in the mid-1960s, which in comparison was technically very straightforward.

Contract 102 is undoubtedly the most complex contract on the project. But MacKenzie is adamant that the Balfour Beatty-Amec joint venture made negligible mistakes. This is despite having to create a massive labyrinth of new tunnels beneath a fully operational Waterloo Station, reconstruct Westminster Station while District and Circle Line trains kept running and then building a 12 storey deep station below capable of supporting a six storey building above.

Nevertheless Westminster Station will be the last to open, nearly two years late. Mackenzie is confident that BBA will be paid the money that the joint venture has spent to get the job done. 'We deserve to make some money out of this job,' says Mackenzie . 'The guys performed miracles down there.'

He describes the job as a success through adversity and being characterised from start to finish by continual hassle. 'We tried partnering but in reality the commercial cultures meant that JLEP could never be really committed,' he explains. 'But if ever a job required working together it was this one. If partnering had taken off there would have been big savings and it would have been a much better place to work.'

Pollard is equally pleased with the technical achievements on the job. 'It is certainly not good that the project has finished late but I don't think the JLE will be necessarily bad for civil engineering,' he says. 'We have shown what can be done in an urban area and advanced the state of current knowledge to prove that is possible and practical to construct such vast works.'

While bearing in mind the project complexity, Pollard puts the blame for the delays squarely at the door of the project organisation from the start.

'Maybe there were not enough people in the JLEP project team, maybe there was not enough communication. It is fair to say that the client expected miracles too often.'

But he accepts that once the procurement route had been chosen the project was in many ways on a hiding to nothing. 'A difficult contract like this would be better run under an alliancing contract,' he says. 'We had a partnering agreement at 102 and certainly without it we would not have got where we are. But the contract was very adversarial and so it was often like wading through treacle.'

The BB-Amec joint venture, he insists had very clear instructions on this project to do everything it could to work with the client to get the job built.

'Technically I would do it again,' he says. 'But I would look very carefully at the nature of the contract before hand.'

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