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Settling down in Somerset

Maintenance

Atkins has been involved with Somerset since 1996 when it took on the council's entire highways operation - the first time highways services had been fully externalised anywhere in the UK.

Burr admits that pioneering private sector highways operation and maintenance did lead to problems, addressed in a new contract signed in 2003 and running until 2008, extendable to 2010.

'It was a fair learning experience, especially in the early days, ' he says.

'We learnt that to have a good, integrated service you need to have an educated client.' The contract handed over virtually all policy and budget decisions to Atkins, leaving an extremely thin client. To return some control to Somerset, Atkins handed back area offices in 2001.

The new contract also removed the 'them and us' distinction represented by the council's and consultant's names - Atkins rebadged itself as Somerset Highways Partnership.

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