More sites to restart as 73% of big jobs back

Major contractors are now working on 73% of sites as the government renewed its call for construction to restart across the country.

An update from trade body Build UK yesterday revealed the number of operational sites for its contractor members – up from 69% last week.

Build UK’s membership includes most of the industry’s biggest names like Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, Kier, McAlpine, Skanska, Bouygues, Bam, Vinci, Wates, Mace and Morgan Sindall.

Over 80% of member’s infrastructure and construction sites are now running with 55% of housing jobs working.

The latest numbers came as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick restated the government’s position on construction as one of the sectors leading the economy out of lockdown.

He said: “We want infrastructure and construction work to begin again wherever it is safe to do so.

“We cannot, and will not, let this pandemic halt our work to improve connectivity, to provide vital social and cultural infrastructure and to boost economic growth across the regions.

“That’s is how we will begin to rebuild and recover from this national emergency.”

Build UK also reported that productivity is improving on reopened sites.

Productivity on infrastructure and construction sites is averaging 71%, up from 67% last week.

But sites in London remain a challenge although output has improved from 56% to 63% in the last week.

Article courtesy of ‘Construction Enquirer’

Nuttall and Ferrovial to replace Carillion on HS2 work

BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman have been drafted in to strengthen the Kier and Eiffage joint venture preparing to start work on two civils packages worth nearly £2.5bn in the first phase of HS2.

C2 and C3 contracts will cover an 80km stretch of the central HS2 section
C2 and C3 contracts will cover an 80km stretch of the central HS2 section

The two firms will replace Carillion, which was the third partner in the original consortium to secure C2 and C3 contracts in the central section of the project.

Lot C2 will see the construction of the north portal Chiltern tunnels to Brackley, while Lot C3 is for the Brackley to Long Itchington Wood Green tunnel south portal.

Since the two contracts were let the combined value has soared from £1.34bn to £2.48bn.

The new team of contractors will deliver an 80km stretch of HS2 through the countryside, from Wendover in the Chilterns to Leamington Spa.

The route includes 42 km of cuttings up to 30m deep and 27 km of embankments up to 13m high. The firms will also build 70 over-bridges, 15 viaducts, 15 under-bridges and three Green Tunnels with a total length of about 6.5km.

Bam Nuttall and Ferrovial were previously part of the Fusion consortium with Morgan Sindall, which unsuccessfully bid for the northern and southern sections of HS2 phase one.

HS2 avoided going out to public tender again, because EU procurement rules allow for replacement to be appointed in the event of insolvency.

Chiefs at HS2 also argued that re-procurement would also be unfair to surviving partners Kier and Eiffage.

Skanska rail and highways maintenance for sale

Skanska is pulling out of the rail, highways and lighting maintenance markets to concentrate on core building and infrastructure construction.

It has now begun the process of marketing its infrastructure services operations to potential buyers.

Skanska said it would only consider bids that protect contract delivery and teams.

Gregor Craig, president and CEO of Skanska UK, said: “We have a strong platform for the future as a result of our financial resilience, selective work winning and disciplined management.

“We have decided to streamline our UK operations to focus more on our core infrastructure and building markets and create greater alignment between Skanska’s UK activities and its approach in global markets.”

Skanska said it would remain fully committed to the delivery of all current contracts throughout the sale process, and would do all it could to minimise any impact and ensure a seamless transition once a buyer is identified.

 

It is the second time the UK arm of the Swedish construction giant has sought to sell part of its business.

Nearly two years ago piling arm Skanska Cementation was marketed with a price tag north of £50m. But after failing to agree on a price with prospective buyer concrete contractor Morrisroe, the foundation firm was retained.

HS2 review ‘could axe part of northern route’

HS2-High-Speed-2-train-track-design-CGI-_660-620x330.jpg

The northern leg of HS2 could be scaled back, it has been reported.

The Financial Times said that the Oakervee review is examining the possibility of axing phase 2b of the route from the East Midlands to Leeds and Sheffield.

The review is assessing factors including whether the project should continue, what its cost will be and the route it should take.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “There will be grave long-term consequences for the economy of the north and east of the UK if the eastern leg of HS2 isn’t delivered in full.”

The FT also reported that the panel is also looking at cutting the speed of the trains by 40mph in an attempt to save £10bn, and looking at starting the line at Old Oak Common rather than Euston.

Labour peer and former head of the National Infrastructure Commission Lord Andrew Adonis said he would try to ask about the reported change in the House of Lords this afternoon.

He said: “I’m hoping to ask in the House of Lords today about the front page suggesting that the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham & Derby might be cancelled. This is a really terrible idea even by Johnson’s standards.”

A report by Midlands Connect last month said that 73 stations, including 54 with no direct HS2 service, are set to benefit from the project if it is completed in full.

At the time, Sir John Peace said: “It is the capacity released by the line, not just its speed, that will give the whole network a desperately needed overhaul.”

HS2 confirmed last week that it has halted the felling of 11 ancient woodland sites until the Oakervee-led review has concluded.

The panel is expected to conclude its report later this month.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We are not going to pre-empt or prejudice this work with a running commentary on the review’s progress.”

HS2 has been contacted for comment.

Counter Offers: To Stay or Not to Stay?

For those unfamiliar with the basic definition; the counter offer is a last-minute bid by a company to retain an employee who has handed in a notice of resignation.

Over the years we have seen many a counter offer put on the table from frantic employers and in this article, we are going to cover both the positives and negatives of accepting; whilst shining some light on the subject.

And In the famous words of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go now?”

What is a Counter Offer?

A counter offer is an attempt to entice an employee to stay with their employer after they have received an offer for another job position. The counter offer can consist of a raise to salary, an increased benefits package (company car, bonus, etc.), a promotion or new role within the company or just a few words of reassurance and promises of a brighter future. This is done in the hope that this increased ‘deal’ will change the employee’s mind and get them to stay.

Pros of Accepting a Counter Offer

  • The straightest forward counter offer is financial and this tends to benefit employees who are generally happy with their job but feel they are being financially undervalued. This can be resolved by their employer increasing the employee’s annual salary or some of the other financial benefits.
  • If the dissatisfaction runs deeper and is widely felt then a benefit of a long-term, highly regarded employee resigning their post is that it can give a wakeup call to their employer which can lead to change that, not only benefits the individual, but also the overall team. Whilst no one person is bigger than a company, losing key staff can be very disruptive and costly so making a few changes to improve the general feeling can be a benefit to both employer and the team.
  • Where the issue goes beyond finance and self-worth then the employee may be looking for more responsibility and a new challenge. When recruiting, the natural tendency for many employers is to look outside whilst overlooking existing staff who may have transferable skills. A resignation could, therefore, start talks regarding a step up or it could open doors to new responsibilities whilst putting plans in place for further career progression. This can leave the employee in a better position, knowing that their aspirations are being considered and that there is potential to progress within the company.

Cons of Accepting a Counter Offer

  • Financial gain tends to be short-lived once the shine of an increased salary wears off and the extra money has been absorbed into our daily living. Once this happens the other reasons for our dissatisfaction starts to resurface and it’s only a matter of time before we are scrolling through the job advertisements again. Statistically, over 70% of people who accept a financial counter offer start looking for a new job within six months either because of their renewed unease or (in recessionary times) an unexpected redundancy notice.
  • However well regarded an employee is, they are rarely viewed the same by an employer after a counter offer, who may now feel let-down at having been put in that position; and who may forever question the employee’s loyalty. This often shows up when salary reviews, bonus payments and promotions come up; or when cut backs in the company occur.
  • Beware the promise of a brighter future that comes in the form of a promotion or new role ‘in six months’ time’ or ‘once your current project completes’. Talk is cheap and often the promise of change simply buys the employer time to plan for the employee’s departure and line up a replacement.
  • Even if a pay increase or promotion IS forthcoming then consider why it has only been offered in a last-minute bid to stop you from leaving rather than in authentic and planned recognition of your value to them. If your employer knew about your concerns or wanted to improve your circumstances then why did they leave it to such a late stage, and will it take another resignation to get that next increase? Similarly, how will your colleagues feel towards you knowing that you strong-armed your position?
  • For me, the biggest downside is often overlooked. To get to the resignation stage, it’s likely that you invested time in finding and interviewing for a position that you wanted, with a company that you liked; and to whom you suggested (at least verbally) that you would be accepting their offer. Companies rarely enjoy feeling as though their offers have been used and often disregard future applications from those that have ‘let them down’.

There are always pros and cons to decisions and sometimes a counter offer can occasionally be a great opportunity for change while often it’s a quick fix for 6 months before the original feelings return even stronger and it’s back to square one.

If you’re considering new opportunities then head over to our jobs page where you will find an extensive list of current available vacancies, alternatively call either our London or Midlands offices, we’d be pleased to hear from you.

 

Amey to pay £215m to exit Birmingham highways PFI

Amey is close to striking a deal that could see it stump up £215m to walk away from its troubled Birmingham highways maintenance PFI contract.

Birmingham City Council chiefs are understood to have agreed a proposal with the highways maintenance contractor, which will be formally ratified next month.

It is understood that Amey could pay £130m in cash up front, with a further £85m in staged payments over five years.

Also Birmingham City Council would hold £85m of deductions and penalties imposed on Amey, which have been subject to legal disputes between the two.

Together this would amount to a £300m divorce settlement for the council from Amey’s Spanish parent Ferrovial.

Amey has been locked in a five-year legal battle with the council over performance on its £2.7bn PFI deal. This has already seen Amey Highways suffer serious losses.

The Spanish infrastructure group is aiming to sell-off its UK support services business Amey but the 25-year PFI contract has proved a major obstacle.

A council spokesman would not confirm leaks to Sky News of the proposed deal but said:  “It is now generally accepted by all parties to the contract that in order to move forward Amey must be replaced with a new subcontractor.

“This will require a managed release and handover to a new provider along with an appropriate settlement to rectify the liabilities Amey proposes to leave behind.

“While the terms of this settlement are yet to be agreed and would be subject to further agreement by the Council’s Cabinet, talks in recent days have established how an acceptable settlement could be reached and we will continue to work with all those involved to achieve an acceptable solution.”

An Amey spokesman said: “We are encouraged by recent progress and appear to be arriving at a deliverable solution guaranteed by Amey.

“The next few days are critical to finally concluding this issue.”

Galliford Try issues profit warning

Galliford Try is undertaking a strategic review of its construction business after issuing a fresh profit warning.


Further hits have been distilled on the completed Queensferry Crossing

The firm said it aimed to reduce the size of the construction business as it focused on key strengths in markets with sustainable prospects for profitability and growth.

Galliford Try warned it expected to report pre-tax profits £30m-£40m below previous forecasts, after final settlement on the £1.4bn Queensferry Crossing project.

Galliford Try’s joint venture with Dragados, Hochtief and American Bridge International had to meet costs of delays due to high winds on the Forth bridge project.

In a statement it said:  “The board anticipates that this review will result in reduced profitability in the current year reflecting a reassessment of positions in legacy and some current contracts and the effect of some recent adverse settlements, as well as the costs of the restructure.”

It said the single largest readjustment related to the Queensferry Crossing joint venture, which has recently increased its estimated final costs on the project.

It said its position over the claim covering the completed Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, and the £38m work in progress balance in respect of three contracts for a single client was unchanged.

The review will scrutinise contract positions throughout the construction business and assess operational progress. The outcome of the review over the next few weeks will be reported in a trading update in mid May.

Streetwork contractors to be made to give five-year pothole guarantees

The Department for Transport plans to make utilities contractors guarantee their reinstatement’s for five years.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has launched a consultation on increasing the guarantee on utility firms’ roadworks form two years to five years, so that if a pothole forms as a result within five years, the company must return to bring the road surface back to normal.

The consultation seeks views on a new edition of the Specification for the reinstatement of openings in highways, a statutory code of practice for street works. It also introduces new asphalt standards.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Road surfaces can be made worse by utility companies, so imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer. The proposals also allow for new innovative surfacing to be used, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content that is easier to compact to the required density. This makes it less prone to potholing.”

Article Courtesy of ‘The Construction Index’

£2.3bn London HS2 station contracts awarded

HS2 has named its preferred construction partners to deliver its two major station projects in London.

HS2 will more than double capacity at Euston station with 11 new platforms

A joint venture between Mace and Dragados has beaten rival bidder Costain/Skanska to secure Euston station with a bid of around £1.3bn, which is below the original project estimate of £1.65bn.

Eleven new platforms for HS2 will be built at the station in two stages as part of a phased approach that means less disruption for passengers.

Mace and Dragados have a strong track record of delivering complex and demanding infrastructure projects including Battersea Power Station (phase 2), Mumbai International Airport Terminal Two and work on delivering the Spanish high speed rail network, including the major new Madrid Atocha and Barcelona Sants stations.

The decision will be a blow for Costain/Skanska, which was considered a frontrunner because it had already mobilised at the London station where it is early works contractor.

Also Costain/Skanska/Strabag have the Hs2 tunnel contracts linking the two London stations.

As part of the wider Euston station area development Lendlease is drawing up a masterplan that could support up to 14,000 new jobs and almost 4,000 new homes, as well as shops, cafes and public spaces.

Old Oak Common station designed by WSP and architects, WilkinsonEyre

The other station at Old Oak Common in north west London will be built by a Balfour Beatty/Vinci joint venture who as construction partner will work with HS2 and designers to coordinate the delivery of the station, including platforms, concourse and links to the London Underground and other rail services.

The full consortium is made up of Balfour Beatty Group /VINCI Construction UK/VINCI Construction Grands Projets /SYSTRA.

It beat bids from BAM Nuttall/Ferrovial Agroman (UK); Bechtel and Mace/Dragados, which under the rules could only secure one station project.

Balfour Beatty and Vinci have experience of some of the world’s most complex construction projects, including the new Tours-Bordeaux TGV, Thames Tideway tunnel and the London 2012 Aquatics Centre.

At Old Oak Common, the arrival of HS2 is expected to help kick-start the UK’s biggest regeneration project, transforming the former railway yards into new neighbourhoods supporting up to 65,000 jobs and 25,500 new homes.

HS2 trains will pass below the conventional station which has overbridge links to Crossrail

This complex station project has also come in just at just over £1bn, again less than the original budget estimates of up to £1.3bn.

A light and airy concourse will link both halves of the station with a soaring roof inspired by the site’s industrial heritage.

The six 450m HS2 platforms will be built in a 1km long underground box, with twin tunnels taking high-speed trains east to the terminus at Euston and west to the outskirts of London.

It is expected that around 4,000 jobs will be supported during construction of the two stations.

HS2 Chief Executive, Mark Thurston said: “Euston and Old Oak Common are two of the most important elements of the project – two landmark stations which will help unlock tens of thousands of jobs and new homes across the capital. Together with our Birmingham stations, they will transform the way we travel and set new standards for design, construction and operation.

“Mace/Dragados and Balfour Beatty/VINCI have a strong track record of delivering some of the world’s most challenging and exciting infrastructure projects and I look forward to welcoming them to the London teams.”

Article courtesy of Construction Enquirer – Feb 2019

Crossrail delayed again as costs rise by another £2bn

Crossrail has bust its budget by another £2bn as further delays to the opening of the project were confirmed.crossrail liverpool street passageway northern line moorgate
Another extra financing package worth more than £2bn was agreed on Monday afternoon as Crossrail chiefs admitted they couldn’t guarantee hitting the revised opening date of Autumn 2019. The network was originally due to open this week after being heralded for years by the previous management team as “on time and on budget.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “It has been increasingly clear that the previous Crossrail Ltd leadership painted a far too optimistic picture of the project’s status.”

Crossrail first admitted this summer that the project had bust its original £14.8bn budget by £590m and was running late. The revised total cost of the project is now £17.6bn.

The latest financing package has been agreed by the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. It comes as an independent review by KPMG into financing and governance on the project nears completion. It revealed an estimated £1.3bn to £1.7bn shortfall in funding to complete the project plus the need for an extra £750m contingency fund.

New Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild also confirmed that “having reviewed the work still required to complete the project, an Autumn 2019 opening date could no longer be committed to at this stage.”

It was revealed that “core elements of the infrastructure being delivered by Crossrail Ltd, including the stations and the fit out of the tunnels, are at varying stages of completion and more funding is therefore required to complete it, as well as the extensive safety and reliability testing needed for the new railway systems.”

Mayor Khan said: “I haven’t hidden my anger and frustration about the Crossrail project being delayed. This has a knock-on consequence of significant additional cost to the project. It has been increasingly clear that the previous Crossrail Ltd leadership painted a far too optimistic picture of the project’s status.

“I have ordered the release of all Crossrail Board minutes in the last five years to provide transparency to Londoners on their decision making, and working with the DfT, brought in a new leadership team.”

Tony Meggs will become the new Chair of Crossrail Ltd replacing Sir Terry Morgan who resigned last week.

Meggs, who will step down from his role as CEO of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), will oversee the final stages of delivering the Crossrail project.

The Crossrail Ltd Board will be further strengthened with the nomination of former MP Nick Raynsford as Deputy Chair.

Mike Brown, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Crossrail Ltd’s announcement of the delay to the Elizabeth line is extremely disappointing and, only now, is the scale of what is yet to be completed becoming clear.

“The confirmation of this funding agreement will now allow Crossrail Ltd and its new leadership to focus on finishing the remaining construction work on the stations and tunnels and then completing the vital safety testing in order to open the railway for passengers as quickly as possible.

Mark Wild, Chief Executive, Crossrail Ltd, said: “Since I joined Crossrail Ltd in November I have been reviewing the work still required to complete the core stations and rail infrastructure and begin the critical safety testing.

“It is evident that there is a huge amount still to do. Stations are in varying stages of completion and we need time to test the complex railway systems. This means that I cannot at this stage commit to an autumn 2019 opening date.

“My team and I are working to establish a robust and deliverable schedule in order to give Londoners a credible plan to open the railway and provide a safe and reliable service.

“Once that work is completed we will then be in a position to confirm a new opening date.”

Article courtesy of – Grant Prior (Construction Enquirer)