Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Share deal

Highways Take three contractors working on four different roads schemes and put them in the same office.It sounds like a recipe for disaster.Scott Wilson has proved different, though, reports Mark Hansford.

Scott Wilson's highways office in Chesterfield is a busy place, and not just because of the four major projects from across the country being run from it.

On the firm's drawing boards are the £60M A30 Bodmin to Indian Queens improvement in Cornwall, the £186M A46 Newark to Widmerpool improvement in Nottinghamshire, the £15M Blofield to North Burlingham dualling and the A63 Melton grade separated junction in Yorkshire.

Working up tender and detailed designs on four projects would make for a busy office at the best of times. But to really hot things up, Scott Wilson has thrown into the mix four different contractors and Highways Agency agents.

The potential for conflicts of interest and infighting would be significant, you'd think.

Well, it certainly makes things interesting, confirms Scott Wilson's new roads director Paul Bracegirdle who is project director on the early contractor involvement (ECI) A46 and A47 schemes, as well as the design and build A63.

Former roads boss William Kemp is project director on A30 Bodmin Indian Queens scheme.

'We've got three different ECIs running from here, all with different contractors.

'But it's good for them and good for us and it is working exceptionally well, ' says Bracegirdle. 'I'm encouraged.'

The Bodmin Indian Queens team was the first to set up shop two years ago, and has now been through a seemingly successful public inquiry on schedule. The project team is at present waiting for transport secretary Alistair Darling to press the go button (News last week).

'In terms of what HA is trying to achieve with ECI it's a bit of a flagship for them, so government has just got to keep the momentum going.

'We had 39 weeks to get draft orders out and we achieved that. Then we got to public inquiry by the due date. The inquiry was booked for four weeks and it took just six sitting days. So all that's gone exceptionally well.'

As a result there is understandable frustration at the delay in releasing funding and the fear is that, unless a decision comes through soon, all the advantages gained through ECI will be lost.

Bracegirdle and Kemp are keen that the main message of ECI is not lost, and determined that the lessons learned on Bodmin are transferred to the other ECI schemes.

Work on the A46 is currently focused on identifying the preferred route, and the project team will present its initial thoughts to the Highways Agency in the next two weeks.

This project team is based firmly in Scott Wilson's office, with Balfour Beatty's project manager, design co-ordinator and community liaison officer all sitting alongside Scott's own project manager and design team.

There's even a representative from employer's agent KBR.

'All that phoning and emailing and waiting for responses is got rid of as everybody is right there and linking in together, ' says Bracegirdle.

Which is as well, as with all ECI scheme the programme is tight.

'Six months in, the current programme is to publish draft orders and environmental statement next summer.

Road opening would be spring 2009 with a two year construction programme, but it is a long process with a public inquiry and waiting for a decision, ' explains Scott's project manager Tim Baker.

'At the moment we're all very much enjoying the optioneering process, and the best forum for all our decision making processes is when everybody - that's the team, Highways Agency, KBR, Balfour Beatty - all sit in this room with our highways designers, environmentalists, archaeologists, ecologists, landscape architect to discuss what we can do.'

Balfour Beatty project manager Jerry Clarke echoes this sentiment.

'In the past you were inevitably doing some design twice, and we're really enjoying being involved at the optioneering stage.'

'We've always had to make judgements on how we foresee construction proceeding, but now the locals can talk to the people who will actually build it - they can be accountable up front, ' adds Bracegirdle. Reducing the potential for objection at public inquiry is very much the focus, and having the contractor involved is a major advantage.

One of the big issues facing the team is the route of the A46, which follows the ancient Fosse Way.

Archaeological investigations will be significant. The route will steer round particular hotspots, but having the contractor involved gives confidence to interested parties that issues such as archaeology will be treated sympathetically. Walk over and geophysical surveys are now under way to identify areas for further investigation.

Having the team together also saves money. And with a fixed overall budget now a feature of ECI contracts, these savings are valuable.

'It's great to have KBR involved in detail because their costs are part of the budget and we can make sure that we're not manmarking as we go through.

Instead we have the best people working on any particular task, ' says Bracegirdle.

Budget adequacy is being worked on at the moment, and first conclusions will be drawn in the next two weeks. Current indications are that the budget is 'tight', which only goes to emphasise the benefit of the ECI contract.

'The Highways Agency has far more involvement this way, and at the end of the day it can say whether it wants the Vauxhall Cavalier or the Mercedes, ' says Clarke.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.