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Lesson from Scandinavia

It is good news that the ODA is appointing an Independent Disputes Panel of expert engineers to avoid contractual disputes (NCE 10 April).

This may be a British first but it is certainly not a world one.

In the early 1990s, the Øresundskonsortiet, the client for the Øresund Link, the tunnel and bridge crossing between Denmark and Sweden across the Øresund channel, employed exactly such a disputes panel, consisting of international engineers, each expert in one of the engineering disciplines involved in the project.

One member was Sir Alan Muir Wood from Britain, past president of the ICE.

The Øresundskonsortiet also accepted that the construction risk should be fairly shared between the contractor and the client. Limiting weather and ground conditions were set out in the tender documents beyond which the client would accept additional costs.

In addition, a comprehensive risk analysis was carried out to identify the main construction phase hazards and design mitigation measures.

The end result was an outstanding project, completed in 2000 on time, to budget and in accordance with exacting environmental conditions.

It is exciting that the British construction industry is beginning to realise that there are better ways to control complex projects than confrontation, argument and claims.

It is a pity that this lesson had not been learned in time to prevent the Wembley fiasco to mention just one example.

John Wolfe-Barry (M), john@wolfe-barry.net

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