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Road mega-contracts will double use of consultants by contractors

CONSULTANTS ARE planning to more than double the number of contractors they work with on major road schemes.

Individual contractors are rapidly forging multi-consultant alliances in response to a move by the Highways Agency to package major motorway widening schemes into mega contracts.

These are expected to involve more design work than could be easily handled by a single firm.

The contracts will typically be for motorway widening schemes expected to emerge from the government's multi modal studies.

They could include widening 80km of the M25, 67km of the M1 and 80km of the M6.

The Agency is expected to announce soon that it will let huge design and build contracts to be done 'incrementally' over five to 10 years under one deal.

Hyder director Brett Doughty said that it was already forming closer relationships with more contractors.

'It would be wrong for us to limit ourselves to one contractor each, ' he said. 'Rather than working with one or two as in the past we would expect to work with six to eight.'

Doughty, whose comments were backed by consultant Scott Wilson, also predicted more joint ventures between consultants.

His comments were echoed by Arup director Barrie Ellis who is a board member of the Arup-Atkins joint venture that recently finished designs for the £485M M6 Toll road near Birmingham.

Ellis said that it was likely the Arup-Atkins joint venture would be kept together to bid for major design and build jobs when it is freed up from the M6 Toll project next summer.

'Given the right job we would certainly pool our resources with Aktins again. On the M6 Toll it has worked out very well. We had 800 people working on designs altogether and I can imagine similar sized projects such as the M1 widening where we could be asked to put together similar sized design teams.'

A spokesman for Alfred McAlpine said would it still prefer to deal with joint ventures or with one consultant commissioning sub consultants. 'We would not want to deal with more than one interface'.

Contractors are also forging closer ties with each other.

The CAMBBA construction consortium of Carillion, Alfred McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and Amec which is working on the M6 Toll scheme is expected to stay together to bid for more big projects.

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