The Highways Agency has confirmed that it has revamped the schedule of rates it is using to assess bids for its highly sought-after maintenance deals.
It has made the change after the first two contract awards sparked controversy.
A Balfour Beatty/Mott MacDonald joint venture was last month awarded the Area 10 Asset Support Contract (ASC) with a £300M bid.
It had previously been kicked out of the competition for the Area 2 bid at preferred bidder stage because of a pricing irregularity. This work was eventually awarded to an Atkins/Skanska joint venture instead.
Balfour Beatty/Mott MacDonald is understood to have been excluded from the Area 2 competition because it had put zero rates against items it knew it would not use. This was deemed to have broken the rules. But the joint venture was not excluded from the Area 10 competition, which was held at the same time as Area 2, even though it adopted the same pricing strategy.
The Agency has told NCE that it has sought to clarify the process and has revised the schedule of rates used for the next ASC contracts to be awarded.
The schedule is a comprehensive list of all work activities that the contractor may need to carry out as part of its duties.
The next area maintenance contract out to tender is the £150M to £200M Area 6 contract covering Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.
“The Agency is part way through a programme of rolling out ASC contracts to replace the MAC form of contract,” said an Agency spokesman.
“Each set of tender documentation is area-specific, but contains a number of common schedules. The schedules for each of the upcoming ASC competitions will reflect the requirements for that particular area and consolidate any lessons learned and feedback responses picked up in earlier competitions.”
Invitations to tender for Area 6 were issued in May, with bids invited from Amey, Atkins/Skanska, Balfour Beatty/Mott MacDonald and Carillion/WSP. These submissions were due in last week, with an award expected within weeks before work starts in September. Two more areas will be put out to tender this year, including the massive £500M to £700M Area 3 that covers a large swathe of south and south east England.