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Three big decisions

Crossrail will appoint a chief executive and both its Delivery Partner and Programme Partner contracts by the spring. Bids for these last two contracts have thrown-up some surprising partnerships. Will history and previous relationships dictate who will eventually win out?

While we have been digesting turkey and watching Only Fools and Horses re-runs, Crossrail, and those who want to work on this megaproject, have been hard at work.

Three significant posts are up for grabs and, with the economy sliding into recession, the competition for work is greater than ever. The prize for one individual is the role of chief executive for this historic project.

In our winter poll, civil engineers decided that Atkins head of transportation Middle East and India John Newby, currently putting the finishing touches on the Dubai Metro system, would be the most likely choice (followed by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone).

News on the grapevine around Christmas was that Transport for London (TfL), who now runs Cross London Rail Links, as a wholly-owned subsidiary, wanted one of its own men. London Underground director of engineering David Waboso had been tipped for the post. He may be a little young, but Crossrail will not complete until 2017 so a younger man may well be the right way to drive the project through to completion.

But of course the newly-honoured man behind High Speed 1, London & Continental Railways chairman Rob Holden remains hot favourite. Working under the chief executive will be two teams of engineers: the programme partner to manage the overall scheme and the project delivery partner to manage the tunnelled sections beneath London.

Bids have thrown up some interesting partnerships, with all but two bids dominated by US-based project management teams.

Two partnerships are still in the running for both the 100M programme partner post and the 400M project delivery partner post: Legacy 3 – a joint venture between US giant Parsons Brinckerhoff, Balfour Beatty Management and Davis Langdon, and a bid by three of the four members of Rail Link Engineering (RLE), responsible for High Speed One – Bechtel, Halcrow and Systra.

The striking thing about Legacy 3 is that it breaks the trusted pairing of Atkins and Balfour Beatty, who have an enduring partnership from Tube upgrade contractor Metronet through to the M25 widening. It is the Metronet tie which could well be the undoing of Legacy 3’s bid.

Crossrail is a whollyowned subsidary of Metronet’s client TfL, and London transport commissioner Peter Hendy is known to be resistant to Balfour Beatty’s charms. But Balfour Beatty can boast Andrew Wolstenholme, who spearheaded the successful Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) project when he worked for BBA.

Bechtel’s bid breaks-up the successful RLE team, but incoming Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan currently runs Tube Lines, which is itself a Bechtel joint venture. Add to this the fact that if Holden takes the chief executive post, Crossrail will be run by a man who has spent the past 12 years working with RLE, then Bechtel’s bid could be a sure thing.

The question could be which job does Crossrail want to give it: the simple 100M soft skills programme partner, or the hardedged 100M delivery role?

The final bidder for the programme partner post is Transcend – a joint venture between Aecom, parent of Faber Maunsell, CH2M Hill and Nichols group. Again, this bid is dominated by large US project management teams with the addition of Nichols group chairman Mike Nichols, who is best known for his influential report that criticised the Highways Agency for its spiralling costs back in 2007.

Aecom’s project management arm is managing a number of major international transport schemes, including the 14km Second Avenue subway in New York. Meanwhile CH2M Hill is managing the London 2012 Olympics as one-third of the Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA’s) delivery partner CLM (CH2M Hill, Laing O’Rourke and Mace).

Two further groups are still in the running for the Crossrail project delivery partner contract.

Flare, comprising the final member of RLE, Arup, with Fluor and EC Harris, was knocked out this week. Arup’s pairing with cost consultant EC Harris was seen a smart move in these economic times. But Fluor, while another big international name, has relatively little experience here in the UK. Fluor also delegates international management and design expertise to offices in Poland, India and the Philippines. Crossrail clearly wanted London-based expertise.

Laing O’Rourke’s bid is another new pairing – with Atkins. Atkins has the same problem as Balfour Beatty in its involvement with Metronet, but it did step in to deliver the Dubai Metro when Capita Symonds was kicked off the scheme.

Meanwhile, Laing O’Rourke worked on T5 and Tony Douglas, the main man on the project, is set to take the lead on Crossrail, should the bid be successful. It also is one-third of the ODA’s delivery partner. But with 2012 looming, is it over stretched?

Finally we have a bid by Capita Symonds, with Bovis Lend Lease and cost consultant Northcroft. Led by former Highways Agency chief Archie Robertson, he may find himself handicapped by his relationship with Crossrail’s procurement guru Steve Rowsell, who left the Agency under Robertson’s watch.

Bovis is short of cash, as the experience with the Athlete’s Village shows, and Capita is not loved by TfL, who left its lucrative deal to manage the Capital’s congestion charge. The final decision on who takes the programme partner is expected by the end of this month. The other posts will keep us salivating until the spring.

Programme partner shortlist:
Bechtel (with Halcrow and Systra)
Legacy 3 (Parsons Brinckerhoff, Balfour Beatty Management and Davis Langdon)
Transcend (Aecom, CH2M Hill and Nichols Group)

Project delivery partner shortlist:
Legacy 3
Laing O’Rourke (with Atkins)
Capita Symonds & NNN joint venture

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