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Thames Tunnel to target Asian contractors

Thames Water hopes to attract bids from Asian contractors when the Thames Tunnel project is put out to tender to improve the value of the scheme.

Thames Water head of the London Tideway Tunnels Phil Stride told delegates at today’s Tunnelling Conference in London that he hoped tapping into Asian tunnelling expertise would help keep costs down.

“There will be a number of large tunnelling contracts let at the same time and we are keen to get a competitive price,” he said. “There is a lot of expertise in China, which could benefit this project. We are not necessarily talking about a contractor from China or Singapore carrying out a section of the Thames Tunnel alone, but maybe in joint venture with a partner.”

Stride said that he hoped the scheme would gain approval in 2014 to allow a 2016 start on the tunnelling work. “We are looking to put the reference design out to tender in 2012,” he said. “We plan to split the scheme into three sections, which are designed to minimise the need for contractor interaction.”

Stride later told NCE that he felt there was still a role for UK contractors on the scheme. However, he said that within the next three years three major tunnelling contracts will be awarded at the same time. The tunnelling work will be split in three geographical areas across London (west, central and east) and each contract is expected to exceed £500M. “As there are potentially not enough UK tunnelling contractors to deliver these three work packages at the same time we need to look further afield,” said Stride. “We are carrying out market engagement in both Europe and Asia to ensure we obtain competitive bids and deliver value for money for our customers.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Barry Walton

    Surely Mr Stride did not just say “We plan to split the scheme into three sections, which are designed to minimise the need for contractor interaction.” That they would split the project down to include a wider group of smaller but nevertheless competent and viable bidders would be reasonable even though problems will arise from the three potential contracts being on the table presumably at the same time. While there may be only two contractor interfaces the coordinated performance of the separate contracts will be critical to a whole project being delivered as one. On a linea job there are enormous possibilites for some sections to be finished, paid up and even out of of their guarantee perods before the last one is delivered and the investment can be put to its use.

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  • Bill Addington

    With umpteen tunnelling projects ongoing or about to commence in Singapore and Malaysia I suspect that most Singapore-based contractors will be too flat out on their home turf to be tempted by offerings in the UK market, particularly with the high risk of market entry working in Europe would entail.

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  • Crossrail is split into several tunnelling contracts, so it is difficult to see why the Tideway Tunnel procurement strategy might be seen as unusual. It reduces the individual JVs' capital commitments in terms of tunnelling machines. On a well run project we would expect there to be multiple machines operating in an planned overall programme with a managed sequence of start-ups and completions. Have faith in 21st century British civil engineers' capabilities for efficiently delivering major projects. The only reason TW might let it all as one, starting one end and finishing the other, would be to ease the pain of the cash flow!

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