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Race on for £4.5bn smart motorway alliance

3123033 orange smart motorway

Highways England has launched the procurement process for its £4.5bn Smart Motorway Alliance.

In July this year, the operator announced it was moving to the alliancing procurement model for the next 10 years. This model represents a change from the current strategy of procuring on a project by project basis. 

It needs six partners to join it for 10 years to develop a smarter network, creating extra capacity relieving congestion, for more traffic to use the country’s busiest motorways. 

Highways England becomes an integral partner of the alliance alongside three on-site delivery partners, two digitally enabled design partners and one production management partner. 

A specialist logistics hub will also be set up to work across the whole alliance. 

Highways England smart motorways director Shaun Pidcock said the body wanted to “buy differently” and work as an “integrated partnership in an integrated team to beat historic benchmarks on cost and production”. 

“Rather than the M1, junction 13 to 16 project, for instance, we’ll be having the M1, 13 to 14, 14 to 15 breaking it down into smaller units,” said Pidcock. 

Under the new model, Pidcock said he wanted to see efficiencies gained by standardising as much of the design as possible such as overhead gantries. 

“We’re currently prototyping a standard design. This allows us to look at the fixings and work with the tier twos and the fabricators to put a pipeline of work in front of them and not looking at the gantry on a project by project basis.” 

In September this year however, New Civil Engineer revealed that Highways England was moving away from forcing companies to form joint ventures

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said the move was a “step change”. 

“We want a step change away from traditional thinking and more towards creating value.  We want companies that can learn from their experiences, and work together to deliver ever improving efficiency and productivity.” 

The road operator will launch its new approach at an event on 10 December in Birmingham to provide an overview of the Alliance objectives and the “procurement vehicle” as to how the contract will be awarded. 

The selected six partners will work with Highways England to provide exemplar performance and achieve results that include: 

  • Better safety, through better aligned and common working practices and reduced time on site; 
  • More efficient delivery, through a programmatic approach that will drive standardisation, production and off-site assembly; 
  • Improved customer service with a reduction in time needed for works and minimising any disruptions for road users; 
  • Increased investment in skills and innovation from the supply chain, supported by a secure and long-term pipeline of work.

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