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Failed Forth bidders can reclaim costs

Contractors this week welcomed Transport Scotland’s proposal to reimburse bidding costs for firms competing for the contract to build the £2.3bn Forth Replacement Crossing.

Transport Scotland said it wanted to refund failed bidders up to £5M, or if the project is scrapped as much as £10M. Officials said the tendering process for the road bridge could cost firms £10M.

“This is a welcome and positive sign that Transport Scotland appreciates the very considerable cost to contractors in terms of resources committed in tendering for a project as large as the Replacement Forth Crossing,” said Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland chief executive Alan Watt.

“We hope that Transport Scotland will indeed implement this measure and consider doing so for future major infrastructure projects across Scotland and that other clients will follow suit.”

“This is a welcome sign that Transport Scotland appreciates the very considerable cost to contractors.”

Alan Watt, Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland

Scottish Government officials were told last week that companies were unlikely to tender for the project unless the cost of putting their bids together is underwritten by the taxpayer. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) reacted by expressing concerns about refunding bidders.

“Officials told us that the construction firms interested in this contract would be reluctant to bid if they felt that Parliament may reject the Forth Road Bridge Bill or if there was a chance the government would not go ahead with the project,” said Scottish Labour MP David Whitton.

“They also said it would cost around £10M to put together a bid. If the bridge did not go ahead we were being asked to underwrite the cost of the tender process, which could amount to £30M given that three separate tenders would be sought.

“What was more astonishing was the revelation that even if the bridge does go ahead, the two losing tenders would be able to claim up to £5M for their failed bid.”

Conflict and stubbornness

Liberal Democrat MSP for Dunfermline & Fife West Willie Rennie added his concerns to the debate. “Commuters and businesses need certainty that this bridge is to proceed but all the SNP has provided is conflict with London and stubbornness on the funding options open to them,” he said.

“The funding guarantees for contractors only adds to the uncertainty.”

Tender documents for the project are due to be issued by the end of 2009 with the contract award expected in spring 2011.

Transport Scotland head of major infrastructure projects Ainslie McLouglin said the project was attracting widespread interest.” Invitations to competitive dialogue will be issued in early December.

“We have had 39 notes of interest and requests for the prequalification documents, including request from most, of the major European contractors.”

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