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NCE Live News Updates Wednesday 23 October: Government forecasts on HS2 are wrong, says Oakervee

Outgoing chairman of High Speed 2 promoter (HS2) HS2 Ltd Doug Oakervee has spoken out against the government’s economic models being used to assess the value for money of the £42.6bn scheme.

5pm: Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer has launched a technical academy in Edinburgh offering a range of construction qualifications. 

Technical Academy Scotland, established in collaboration with vocational training company Edutrain, will offer courses for young technician apprentices and adult learners.

A survey undertaken by the academy found that that almost half of construction companies questioned faced difficulties finding suitably skilled technicians and engineers.

Sir Tom Farmer said: “If we want world class infrastructure in the future, we must take action to ensure we have a world class workforce to deliver it now.

“Technical Academy Scotland will assist in the delivery of a skilled workforce, investing in the training necessary to up skill our current workforce and encouraging people to enter the sector.”


3.45pm: Black & Veatch has won work on a £2.9bn water project in Chile.

The firm was selected as engineer of record for the marine works and desalination components of the Escondida Water Supply scheme.

Black & Veatch will  lead engineering design, procurement, field inspection and pre-commissioning for these components of the project.

The Escondida Water Supply project will deliver 2,500 litres of water per second to the world’s largest copper mine.


2.15pm: More from the HS2 Growth Taskforce report, now, which says HS2 can connect cities in the north of England to European markets in the same way the Channel Tunnel helped the south of England.

In its preliminary report into ways to maximise the benefits of the £42.6bn project (see 10.15am), the government-commissioned panel said regional cities needed clear visions for a post-HS2 world.

“We need only look at the economic benefits of the Channel Tunnel in helping to connect British markets with the continent,” it said. “Or at the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee Line extension in connecting Canary Wharf to the rest of London.

“As these projects did for London, HS2 offers our regional cities potential for a far stronger international profile, offering investors broader choice and thereby supporting a more even spread of growth across the country.”


12.15pm: Atkins has been appointed to design a bridge deck in the West Midlands.

The firm will work on the structure at junction 6 of the Coventry ring road.

It is aimed at improving connections between the Friargate development and the city centre.

Costain will build the bridge, with work due to start on site in early 2014 and be completed by June 2015.


12pm: Arcadis has posted increased profits for the third quarter of 2013.

The consultancy, which bought EC Harris two years ago, reported net income of €26.2M (£22.3M) in Q3 2013.

This represented a 13% hike from the same period in the previous year. Gross revenue was down 2% over the same period to €633M.

Chief executive Neil McArthur said: “Operating margin for continental Europe went from 3.2% in the first half year to 7.0% in the third quarter, underlining the effectiveness of our new operating model.”

He hailed contract wins on the Grand Paris metro project and the Seaport City scheme in New York.


11.30am: Glow-in-the-dark paving has been installed in Cambridge.

The Starpath product from Surrey-based Pro-Teq Surfacing is being trialed by Cambridge City Council in the East Anglian city’s Christ’s Pieces park.

It can be applied to any hard-based existing surface to absorb energy from UV rays during the day and release it at night.

Pro-Teq Surfacing owner Hamish Scott said: “If it is pitch black outside, the luminous natural earth enhances; and if the sky is lighter, it won’t release as much luminosity.”


11am: Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros Civil Engineering have secured a deal to build a wind farm in Wales.

The joint venture will deliver civils and electrical works for Vattenfall’s 76-turbine Pen y Cymoedd scheme.

Vattenfall director of onshore wind Piers Guy said: “We have made clear from day one that we will maximise the opportunities for Welsh companies through Pen y Cymoedd.”

The developer also awarded Mabey Bridge a contract to supply 18 turbine towers for its Clashindarroch wind farm in North-east Scotland.


10.15am: HS2 should follow the Crossrail model of home delivery, according to a government-commissioned panel.

The HS2 Growth Taskforce said work on the £42bn rail link from London to the North should be carried out by UK firms where possible.

“With more than 95% of Crossrail’s budget to date being won by UK-based companies, we will look at how HS2 can replicate and build on this success for our British businesses,” it said in a preliminary report.

It added: “Absolute clarity on the contract pipeline is crucial to preparing the adequate skills base and labour force, just as it is for the readiness of businesses and the supply chain.”


9:30am: Kent County Council is seeking bidders for a road improvement project in the Borough of Tunbridge Wells.

The council is upgrading the single carriageway Longfield Road in North Farm to a dual carriageway with upgraded junctions.

Worth up to £5M, the scheme is expected to start on site in June 2014 and complete within 12 months.

Contractors have until 15 November to register their interest in the work. Between five and six will be shortlisted. More information here.


9.15am: Oakervee also made the bold call that contractors are more innovative than consultants.

He used last night’s Bradshaw lecture to highlight the key emphasis HS2 is placing on early contractor involvement.

“There will be much more engagement with contractors at the earliest stage, because it is contractors that bring the innovation, not consulting engineers,” said Oakervee.

“Consulting engineers work at their best when they work with contractors,” he added.

Oakervee singled out Bam Nuttall chief executive Steve Fox as an example of a contractor pushing for change. “There is a real appetite in the construction industry to do things differently, but there needs to be a different environment for this to work,” said the HS2 Ltd chairman.


9am: First up this morning, news from last night, where HS2 Ltd chairman and past ICE president Doug Oakervee spoke out against economic forecasters and critics of the high speed rail scheme…

Oakervee, speaking at the annual George Bradshaw lecture, said that the government’s models for assessing cost/benefit analyses “need to be re-examined” as they cannot cope with schemes of the scale of HS2.

“It is clear that we have not yet developed an economic model that captures the benefits of a scheme of the size of HS2. The government’s models really need to be re-examined,” he said, adding that without care any major infrastructure project would struggle to get built.

“We’ve got to be really careful how we judge these things,” he said, noting that many other road and rail projects – including HS1 – have failed the ecomonic test but still been built. “A lot of the railways built in the 1800s wouldn’t have passed the test either, he said.

Oakervee also criticised the economists who are “vying with each other” to produce evidence that either backs or slams the high speed rail link. He said Britain has a simple choice – embark on a new era of road building or face up to building a new rail network.

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