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One for the A-Team

HIGHWAY MANAGEMENT - PROCUREMENT: Junction 8 on the M11 is the site of a trend setting partnership. Jackie Whitelaw reports.

Remember the 1980s' classic TV series, the A-Team? Most of you must do (the rest, watch UK Gold). But what has the show to do with construction of a couple of sliproads at Junction 8 on the M11?

Sadly, Colonel Hannibal Smith is not hanging out of helicopters directing operations for the new congestion-busting, fast route into Stansted airport, but Smith's tag line - 'I love it when a plan comes together' - is certainly in the air.

A tenuous link, maybe, but the plan in action at this international hub in the Essex countryside could provide a formula for trunk road investment around the UK.

The £36M project is being jointly financed and managed by the Highways Agency and BAA, uniting the public and private sector to get the scheme built at a speed and in a fashion that suits everybody.

Highways Agency project manager Farouk Sally, project leader Tim Sidaway and head of project support Beverley Hoare, both from BAA, are brimming over with enthusiasm for the arrangement.

Hoare says: 'BAA is learning about road construction from the Highways Agency and how public accountability affects procurement and public relations.'

'And the Highways Agency is learning the techniques of the private sector, ' says Sally.

'The sliproads are part of long term plans by BAA to improve access to Stansted before passenger numbers reach 15M, ' Sidaway explains.

Those numbers are already at the 13M mark and queues to get off the motorway at the Stansted exit on the northbound carriageway are causing serious tailbacks. With the terminal extension due to open next month the 15M figure is imminent - although air travel has suffered following the World Trade Center disaster, it is not expected to be set back in the long term.

According to Sidaway, congestion is already delaying people getting to the airport and holding up flights. The sliproads will take away 25% of the traffic currently clogging junction 8.

BAA's need for the roads coincided with the Highways Agency's own £92M plan to upgrade the A120 which runs east-west between Colchester and Bishop's Stortford, passing Stansted and crossing the M11 on the way.

By linking the realigned A120 to the sliproads, BAA and the Highways Agency have a cost effective scheme that will carry airport and trunk road traffic and clear the motorway holdups, all in one fell swoop.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by both parties in March 1999, with work starting on site in June this year.

Completion is expected in October 2002.

'It is an obvious win win, not politically generated but practical, ' says Sidaway.

Sally adds: 'But it was easier to get approval for a public private partnership now than it would have been 10 years ago.

'The Highways Agency is now much more open minded and on a mission to take on ideas from the private sector.'

Initially, in fact, it was BAA that had to re-learn the ways of the public sector, in particular the need to open the job up to tender as demanded by the public works directive rather than selecting a team from its established framework list.

'It was a bit of a culture shock, ' Hoare admits.

Hyder had been working with the Highways Agency developing the east-west route. Contractor May Gurney put up a good team and impressed with its project plan.

'May Gurney is a smaller civils contractor than we are used to working with, but was right for this project, ' says Hoare.

May Gurney with designer Gifford was the preferred bidder and both were signed up ready to start work as soon as the sliproads were given the planning go ahead. BAA took the financial risk of getting early design work done before final permissions were in place - 'That has taken nine months out of the programme already, ' Sidaway says.

Sally says: 'The Highways Agency is looking at buying in the contractor early to help speed up the process of constructing a road, so this a good trial for us.'

The contract is the ECC option C target cost arrangement, which is almost a dead ringer for BAA's own customised target cost deal.

The incentive to get the job done is not produced by threats of liquidated damages but an incentive scheme that goes even further than BAA has tried.

All the main parties are included and May Gurney has also involved key members of its supply chain - from earthworks to steelwork to the blacktop supplier. The consultants also get a look in. If the scheme comes in under budget, Hyder takes a percentage of the joint client share, while Gifford takes a portion of May Gurney's.

'This pushes the boundaries of what BAA has done on incentives, ' says Sidaway.

Sally is impressed at how the arrangement has taken any conflict out of the project.

People are sharing drawings, while the approval process for any changes is conducted face to face round a table rather than in drawn-out correspondence.

The involvement of the suppliers is also enlightening.

'A lot of the key savings are coming from them, particularly in suggesting ways of getting the job done quicker, ' he says.

The big risk element on the project is construction of a new overbridge crossing the M11.

Steelwork specialist Fairfield Mabey is trying to take the risk out and maximise efficiency of production and assembly by constructing a 3D model of the job to highlight any problems.

There is a year for the joint

What is being built

Inbound and outbound sliproads from the M11 south of Junction 8 A grade separated interchange Relocation of all existing sliproads from and to the M11 at Junction 8 Construction of eight new bridges including a new bridge over the M11 to carry the inbound sliproad Significant modifications to the existing bridges at Junction 8 Repair and strengthening works to the M11 carriageways 3km of retaining walls clients to prove whether they are an A-Team or a B or C-Team. If things go well, there is a chance of a joint arrangement for the M25 widening, needed if Terminal 5 gets the go ahead.


Clients: BAA and Highways Agency Designer: Hyder Consulting Design and build contractor:

May Gurney Contractor's designer: Gifford

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