The first contract awards on the £1.5bn A14 improvement in East Anglia have been announced, however the process has led Highways England to signal principal contractors must rethink their approach to win work on major projects.
As reported by Transport Network last month, a single detailed design contract worth £35.3m has been awarded to Atkins CH2M. For construction, the project has been split into four packages.
A Costain/Skanska joint venture has been awarded two of these sections worth a total of £598m for widening the A1 and building a new A14 bypass south of Huntington. This is the limit set for the maximum number of work packages that can be given to a single bidder.
A third package involving reconstruction of the A14 alongside a number of towns and villages north west of Cambridge is being re-tendered because none of the bidders passed the Highways England’s specific prequalification criteria for this part of the scheme. A fourth section covering demolition of a major A14 viaduct and local road reconstruction work in Huntingdon is due to be tendered in 2019.
Contractors are being appointed to support design development with a view to the winners carrying out construction after the project receives development consent.
The Highways England’s director for complex infrastructure Chris Taylor told Transport Network that contracting consortia still in the running for the third A14 reconstruction package are being asked to readdress their tenders. These are being assessed purely on quality terms providing bidders meet the Highways England’s target price.
‘The change from the Highways Agency to Highways England comes with wider responsibilities. We are going to be held to account on how we treat our customers, stakeholders, local communities and the environment. It brings a step change in the whole agenda and this is being reflected in our new wider expectations from contractors on delivery of major projects,’ Mr Taylor said.
Pointing to key criteria for contractors to reconsider, Mr Taylor revealed Highways England needed to see more focus on skills and economic development within local communities.
‘We are not sending bidders away with their tails between their legs, but continuing a lot of dialogue with contracting consortia to ensure they understand what we want and to make sure the A14 project can be delivered successfully,’ he added.
The A14 scheme is the first to be procured through the Highways England’s Collaborative Delivery Framework (CDF) and has been classified as ‘complex infrastructure’ due to the project's size. Initial awards have been announced for the design phase of the project prior to statutory procedures.