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Infrastructure Show: Crossrail ponders making consultants more responsible for any delays or cost overruns

Consultants could be forced to take more responsibility for any cost or time overruns on London’s £14.5bn Crossrail project under proposals put forward by contractor Costain.

Costain has urged client Crossrail to bring its designers into pain/gain share arrangements with its contractors to better engage them with contractor-proposed design changes.

Designers on the rail mega-project were appointed by the client, with contractors asked to price work based on approved designs. Once appointed, contractors enter an optimised contractor involvement process to value engineer the designs. Costain believes designers are then unwilling to take responsibility for any changes.

“Consultants are not currently encouraged to take on our ideas. This is something we have suggested, and we will see in the next couple of months whether it is adopted,” said Costain rail contracts director Lee Davies. Davies was speaking at NCE’s Infrastructure Show.

Costain is lead contractor on the £150M Paddington Station contract in joint venture with Skanska, and hopes its recommendation will be adopted on the job.

Davies was speaking after Crossrail head of procurement Martin Rowark had stressed that the mega-client was not necessarily awarding contracts to the lowest priced bidder. Rather, it was looking for best value, he said. Davies concurred with Rowark, but said more needed to be done to encourage contractors to invest in innovation in order to get best value.

Bam Nuttall chief executive Steve Fox, speaking at an infrastructure leaders panel discussion at the Show, also made the case for clients to encourage more innovation by respecting contractors’ intellectual property.

“Grown up customers already do that,” he said. “But it doesn’t happen across the board. There are a number of clients out there who will take your ideas and tout them around on retender. It doesn’t do much to encourage innovation,” he said.

London Underground head of stations Miles Ashley agreed that such practice should be stamped out.

“It really doesn’t sound like it should be hard to stop. It’s just a case of getting on and doing it,” he said.

Fox also stressed the need for a consistency of approach from public clients if costs were to come down.

Fox, who is one of three industry leaders charged with rolling out Treasury body Infrastructure UK’s action plan to cut the cost of civils projects, said a big concern for IUK was getting its recommendations to clients fully embedded throughout all public bodies.

“We desperately need some consistency. At the moment every client has a different procurement process and every contract has different terms and conditions. We need to get this message across to all public bodies. But it maybe feels like a step too far.”

Former Infrastructure UK chief executive, KPMG chairman for global infrastructure James Stewart, said he doubted whether all the actions would be implemented.

“I’m not sure all the big stuff will get dealt with, and that is the complexity of the system. It’s a worry,” he said.


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