Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

HS2 Ltd accused of accepting ‘abnormally low’ bid for station contract

Old oak common 2
  • New Civil Engineer has obtained court papers submitted by Bechtel and HS2 Ltd amid an ongoing legal row over HS2 Ltd’s decision to award the construction partner contract to build Old Oak Common Station to a JV of Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction, Vinci Construction Grands Projets and Systra (BBVS).
  • Losing bidder Bechtel claims that HS2 Ltd had “clearly reached a conclusion” that the tender submitted by BBVS was “severely under-resourced and posed a real risk to the safe and timely completion and handover of Old Oak Common Station.”
  • HS2 Ltd denies Bechtel’s claims and says it has the power to adjust the resourcing of the winning tenderer prior to contract award.
  • HS2 Ltd argues there is no basis for Bechtel’s claim that HS2 Ltd failed to identify the BBVS tender as “abnormally low”.

Bechtel has claimed that High Speed 2 (HS2) promoter HS2 Ltd accepted an “abnormally low” bid from the winner of its Old Oak Common construction partner contract.

High Court papers obtained by New Civil Engineer reveal that Bechtel believes that HS2 Ltd had “clearly reached a conclusion” that the tender submitted by a joint venture (JV) between Balfour Beatty Group, Vinci Construction and Systra (BBVS) “was severely under-resourced and posed a real risk to the safe and timely completion and handover of Old Oak Common Station”.

In addition, it claims that HS2 Ltd should have identified the BBVS tender as appearing to be “abnormally low” and should have excluded it from the bid race on that basis.

But HS2 Ltd has hit back, denying the allegations made by Bechtel, saying it has the power to adjust the resourcing of the winning tenderer prior to contract award. In particular it says that there is no basis for identifying BBVS’ tender as abnormally low.

Bechtel lodged a High Court claim against HS2 Ltd after losing out on the £1bn contract to build Old Oak Common station in west London.

Winning bidders for the stations at Old Oak Common and Euston were announced by HS2 Ltd in early February. A Mace/ Dragados JV has since signed the contract for the Euston job, but the Old Oak Common contract remains in a stand-still period while Bechtel’s challenge is open.

HS2 Ltd took the unusual step of sharing its evaluation of individual and competing bids with all tenderers when announcing the winning bids.

In particular, Bechtel’s claim centres around a question about how BBVS will structure its organisation to manage and deliver the Old Oak Common contract. Bidders were required to provide organisation charts to demonstrate management capability; and to give assurance on delivery, as well as provide a completed management resource plan.

In bid evaluation feedback forms – quoted in Bechtel’s claim – HS2 Ltd expressed “low confidence in the tenderer’s [BBVS’s] proposal to manage, deliver and assure the works”.

HS2 Ltd’s feedback forms also raise “concerns in relation to level of resource proposed” and conclude that “the [BBVS] consortium will be unable to effectively manage the works as a united team”.

This, Bechtel claims, proves that BBVS “would not be able to perform the [Old Oak Common] contract ‘according to the conditions offered’”.

Bechtel believes that “were it not for the breaches identified” then it “would have had a real chance of being awarded” the contract.

“Had [HS2 Ltd] conducted the evaluation of tenders […] properly […] it ought to have and would have awarded the [Old Oak Common] contract to [Bechtel],” the claim states.

HS2 Ltd’s official defence document submitted to the court denies “each and every allegation” in Bechtel’s claim. 

It adds that while Bechtel’s bid scored higher than BBVS in terms of quality, it “scored significantly lower on price”.

Consequently, it added that “had [Bechtel’s] bid been ranked first after the scoring […] it is highly likely that either [Bechtel’s] bid would have been declared unacceptable and disqualified […] or a further round of bidding would have been required.”

HS2 Ltd’s defence adds that its initial concern about resources “was based on a misunderstanding of BBVS’ month one resource proposal”.

An HS2 spokesperson added: “The arrival of HS2 will transform Old Oak Common, unlocking the opportunity for thousands of new jobs and homes around, what will be, one of the best connected railway stations in the UK. Our early works contractors are currently hard at work, clearing the huge site and preparing for the start of station construction.

“The first-placed tenderer in the procurement for the construction partner contract at Old Oak Common is a highly experienced consortium of Balfour Beatty, Vinci and Systra, which scored higher than Bechtel in a number of areas, including ensuring value for money for the UK taxpayer. We are confident that the construction partner procurement process was robust, and we hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here. 

Readers' comments (1)

  • How many more failed public sector projects and bankrupt contractors are required before ministers and civil servants realise that their procurement practices are totally flawed?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.