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Surprise bidders make Crossrail tunnels shortlist

Two relatively untried partnerships were surprise inclusions on the shortlist for the lucrative tunnelled sections on London’s £15.9bn Crossrail scheme, announced last week.

Partnerships between Spanish giant Dragados and Irish firm John Sisk & Son and between Laing O’Rourke Construction and French giant Bouygues Travaux Publics were among five teams shortlisted for the two central London packages.

The three other shortlisted teams are a Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est, Vinci Construction Grand Projects and Beton-und Monierbau Gesellschaft joint venture; a Costain, Skanska and Bilfinger Berger team and a Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Construction partnership.

The Dragados/John Sisk joint venture is the biggest surprise as the pair have little experience of working together. They have only recently teamed up for the Shanganagh Sewerage scheme in Ireland, which is due to start on site early next year.

Recent experience

Sisk brings with it recent experience of working on the €500M (£453M) Limerick immersed tube tunnel in Ireland. Dragados has extensive experience on Spanish railway tunnels including the 7km Abdalajis Tunnel on the Cordoba to Malaga high speed rail line and has worked on many of Madrid’s metro expansions.

Laing O’Rourke’s partnership with Bouygues is also relatively untested but they have worked together on a schools scheme and energy project. Both are working separately on UK tunnel schemes right now.

O’Rourke is already working on the Crossrail project, building the complex Canary Wharf station with subsidiary Expanded Piling. Meanwhile Bouygues is building the immersed tunnel for the new £260M Tyne Crossing.

Members of the remaining three consortiums worked on the tunnel-intensive High Speed 1 line between London and the Channel Tunnel which involved Costain, Skanska, Bam, Kier, Balfour Beatty and Morgan Est.

A joint venture of Morgan Est, Vinci and Bachy Soletanche is currently vying for the £430M Lee Tunnel contract and Vinci subsidiary Taylor Woodrow is tipped to have won Transport for London’s Tottenham Court Road Underground station upgrade in joint venture with Bam Nuttall.

Academy supporters

Many firms on the shortlist had already been named as supporters of Crossrail’s Tunnelling Academy, which aims to train 3,000 people between now and 2015. Costain, Dragados, Sisk, Balfour Beatty, Vinci, Beton-und Monierbau and the Bam/ Ferrovial/Kier and Costain/Skanska/Bilfinger Berger joint ventures had all signed up to the academy.

The two contracts − Package C300 for Western Running Tunnels and Package C305 for Eastern Running Tunnels − will account for a massive 18km of the 21km of twin bore tunnels that will run beneath central London and will be worth around 4% of the total £15.9bn project cost.

Crossrail said it would issue technical information packs to bidders this month with remaining tender documents following in early January. Contracts are still expected to be awarded by mid-2010.

Crossrail has still to invite expressions of interest for the final tunnelling contract.

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