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Exclusive | HS2 London stations losers ponder challenge

Oldoak common

Losing bidders for High Speed 2’s (HS2’s) key London stations contracts are considering challenging the contract award decisions, New Civil Engineer can reveal.

Project promoter HS2 Ltd last week confirmed a joint venture (JV) between Mace and Dragados as its construction partner for the Euston job and a Balfour Beatty/Vinci/Systra JV as construction partner for the Old Oak Common contract.

But New Civil Engineer understands that at least two losing JVs that are considering appealing the decision before the end of the 10 day standstill period this Friday. The JVs are poring over the 200 page feedback documents from client HS2 Ltd to determine whether they believe they can make a case for having been scored unfairly.

In a bid for transparency, HS2 Ltd has shared with losing bidders scoring and feedback from their own bids, as well as scoring and feedback provided to the winning bidders. But this is allowing losing bidders the ability to carry out their own scoring assessments based on the two sets of feedback.

Engineers close to the bid process have told New Civil Engineer that at least two JVs believe they can build a case for being wrongly marked down in comparison to the winning bidders.

Scores for the bids were allocated on the basis of 10% for the lump sum management fee, 10% for a priced scheduled of rates for staff time and 80% on a quality technical submission. It is thought that the technical component could be contested, with engineers who spoke to New Civil Engineer suggesting there were several areas of concern.

“I will not be at all surprised if there is some sort of objection,” said one engineer close to the bid teams. “My advice would be that this has got to be worth challenging.”

A second engineer, working with a different bid team, told New Civil Engineer that the JV was looking at the grounds for objection “very closely”.

An HS2 Ltd spokesperson said the process was designed to provide transparency and that it had “confidence in its process, scoring and feedback”.

The spokesperson said the standstill process allowed time for bidders to raise any questions they may have and receive clarification and that HS2 Ltd was now focused on the detailed work involved in managing this process and moving to contract award. 

It is very unusual for major contract awards to be appealed, with many firms preferring to avoid confronting major clients for fear of jeopardising relationships and future contract opportunities.

However, HS2 Ltd has already faced challenges over previous contract awards.

In April 2017 Mace objected to HS2 Ltd’s decision to award the phase 2b development partner role to CH2M. Mace was acting on a whistleblower’s information which highlighted a conflict of interest involving former HS2 Ltd employee and now CH2M employee, Christopher Reynolds who was involved in CH2M’s bid.

Mace had threatened to take HS2 Ltd to court but withdrew its objections after CH2M pulled withdrew from the role.

That contract was then handed to next in line Bechtel.

Mace has subsequently now landed the Euston station construction partner role, indicating that challenging a contract award with HS2 Ltd does not necessarily harm future relations.

Losing bidders may also be spurred on by the shortage of other major tender opportunities in the UK. Major highways schemes such as the A303 Stonehenge tunnel and Lower Thames Crossing have effectively gone back to the drawing board after chancellor Philip Hammond ruled out private finance. Transport for London’s major projects portfolio is being redrawn after Crossrail cost overruns have reduced available funding.

Network Rail’s next five year funding cycle, beginning on 1 April, is largely focused on maintenance and renewals and the recent mothballing of the Wylfa nuclear power project has hit the energy sector.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Philip Alexander

    HS2 "management" (and I use that term loosely) can't even run a transparent, rigorous and robust tendering process, the outcome of which bidders can accept without challenge. So what hope is there that they will be able to actually deliver a useless, flawed vanity project to program and budget? NONE.
    Crossrail will be £2+ Billion over budget and 2+ years late on a £15 Billion, 7 year program and HS2 cannot hope to out-turn any better. So 15% cost over-run and 30% time over-run. At a REAL budget of £100+ for HS2 that would be at least £115 Billion and at least 15 years if this ridiculous project really does go ahead. It must be scrapped NOW.
    As the NCE has said (at long last!), "pick a number, any number". Exactly. The HS2 clowns have absolutely no idea how to deliver it , how much it would cost and how long it would take to get it running properly. How can the government commit such a vast amount of money to a project without any robust business case, other than "it will provide jobs and economic development"? It's complete madness. Provision of jobs should be the by-product of a good project supported by good, provable economic data, not the target in itself. If that really is the main criterion, then any old rubbish project will do. Oh yes, it's called HS2.

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