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M1 widening contracts to be let in six months

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CONTRACTS TO widen the M1 between the M25 and Milton Keynes could be let within six months, the Highways Agency said this week.

The £623M scheme will be the first of four massive widening schemes with a combined value of over £5bn to be let in the next financial year - once ministerial approval is granted.

The bold plan was revealed by Highways Agency procurement director Steve Rowsell, speaking exclusively to NCE this week.

The Agency's business plan for 2004/05, due to be published later this month, he said, will confirm a contract award in 2004 for the M1 junctions 6a and 13 widening.

Rowsell's comments came straight after Agency chief executive Archie Robertson announced the award of widening schemes on the A1 and A46 worth £500M (see box).

He added that the additional schemes to widen the M1 in the East Midlands between junctions 21 and 30, the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham and the remaining three lane sections of the M25 could also be programmed for 2004/05.

All these proposals are now awaiting the go-ahead by transport secretary Alistair Darling who must formally announce their entry into the Agency's targeted programme of improvements.

The M1, M6 and M25 widening schemes, with values ranging from £600M to £1.5bn, are strong candidates to be let as DBFOs.

The scale of work required means the Agency plans to give contractors six months notice to form consortium to bid.

During this period the Agency will finalise a revamp of its DBFO contract with a view to cutting the cost of tendering and introducing early contractor involvement.

'In the past, with four firms bidding, the total cost of tendering has been in excess of £10M, ' said Rowsell. 'We have given a commitment to reduce the cost of tendering and I would like to knock 40% off that'

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