HS2 unveils Crewe Link £1.6bn civils bid plan

HS2 has outlined plans to split the proposed West Midlands to Crewe section of the high speed railway into two civils contract packages.

Procurement chiefs said they are still keeping procurement options open with the possibility of running a competition between its four existing phase one joint venture contractors instead of a pre-qualifying a fresh field of bidders.

A current market testing exercise will help to inform the decision about which procurement route to take later next year.

The 39km southern section of the HS2a route is expected to cost up to £870m while the shorter 28km northern section including two short tunnels is estimated to cost up to £750m to build.

The procurement process could start by the third quarter of next year, with bids being invited in the first quarter of 2020, and the winning bidder announced by Spring 2021.

Design work for phase 2a is expected to begin next year, with construction scheduled to start as early as 2021

Article courtesy of Aaron Morby – Construction Enquirer

Winners revealed for Highways England work bonanza

Highways England has chosen the winners for one of its biggest ever framework deals.

It is thought the names will be officially confirmed shortly of contractors who have bagged places on the programme worth up to £8.7bn over the next six years.

It is understood the winners are:

  • North West/North East/Yorks/Humber: Costain, Balfour Beatty, Kier
  • South West: Vinci, Galliford Try
  • East & West Midlands: BAM Nuttall, Skanska
  • South East: BAM Nuttall, Balfour Beatty
  • East: Skanska, Galliford Try, Costain

The framework replaces the present Collaborative Delivery Framework and sees Interserve, Morgan Sindall, Hochtief and Sisk miss out on the work carve up.

Under the new Regional Delivery Partnership arrangement, contractors will become delivery integration partners, designing and constructing motorway and major A-road projects across England under NEC4 standard terms, with suitable amendments.

Article courtesy of Grant Prior – Construction Enquirer

HS2 firms gearing up to create 15,000 jobs by 2020

Contractors and consultants working on HS2 are gearing up to employ a 15,000-strong workforce by 2020.

Over 7,000 roles are already supported by the project, and over 2,000 business have already won work with HS2, ahead of the main construction start next year.

According to a new HS2 project skills strategy document a whole generation of engineers, designers, architects and geologists will benefit from the construction of the new high speed railway as the project gears up to support 30,000 jobs at peak construction.

Mark Thurston, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd said: “Our skills strategy shows how we will create a sustainable pipeline of jobs and skills for companies across the whole country, which boost regional economies and help Britain compete internationally.”

Opportunities will be opened up through a new Job Brokerage Service to help people access the jobs created by the HS2 supply chain, and a new Secondary Education Engagement Programme will help the next generation to enter transport infrastructure careers.

Laing O’Rourke’s Explore Manufacturing factory in Worksop is gearing up to produce precast elements for five major bridges with 35 jobs due to be created to deliver the order.

Balfour Beatty Vinci JV is set to be the largest HS2 recruiter in the West Midlands, offering thousands of jobs to local people.

Consultant Mott MacDonald has already created 300 jobs, set to double in 2019, to deliver design for the BBV joint venture.

Earthmoving contractor, CA Blackwell (Contracts) is planning to create 500 new jobs in Buckinghamshire as it gears up to lead on HS2’s earthworks in the region.

While Costain Skanska JV has created 500 jobs already as it prepared to deliver its southern route sections of the project.

In total, 500 people at consultant WSP offices around the country are working on HS2, including 220 people on the Phase One stations with 39 different specialists on each station.

Presently over 100 apprentices are working on the project, with 2,000 expected over its lifetime.

North West’s first smart motorway fully-operational

The M60 in Greater Manchester is officially the North West’s first fully-operational smart motorway, Highways England has announced.

On 31 July the final package of smart improvements along junctions 10 to 18 of the M60 in Greater Manchester went live. The milestone means that the entirety of the motorway, from Junction 8 at Sale to Junction 20 at Rochdale is now fully-operational.

But what does this mean for motorists? In addition to an extra lane running in both directions of the M62 between junctions 18 and 20, CCTV technology and electronic signage have been installed across the M60 and M62. The introduction of variable mandatory speed limits means that the motorway can be more responsive to incidents as and when they occur, meaning less congestion and frustration at stop-start driving conditions.

“Going ‘live’ this week marks the most significant milestone for this project,” said Highways England Senior Project Manager Jonathan Stokes. “We would like to thank users of the M60 and M62 and people living around them for their patience and support over the last few years while we have worked to deliver this vital investment in what is an almost uniquely complex environment.

“Although this is the first smart motorway in the North West the system has been running successfully in other parts of the country for several years – including around Leeds – and we’re confident it will deliver safer, smoother and more reliable journeys.”

The project’s completion has also paved the way for further resurfacing works along key sections of the M60, and a programme of overnight resurfacing and bridge maintenance is expected be underway later on in the month. This is all part of a £100 million investment in highways maintenance across the North West.

Four more smart motorway schemes, worth an approximated £500 million and delivering 90 miles of additional lanes to the local road network, are also due to be completed over the next few years. With the first smart motorway in the North West now operational, Highways England has also encouraged motorists to learn more about the new system with the guidance available.

Article Courtesy of UK Construction Online

North West to get 100 miles of new motorway lanes

Highways England has said that more than 100 miles of extra lanes will be added to the North West’s motorways through schemes starting on site in the next 18 months.

Four new smart motorway schemes – with a combined value of about £500m – are due to start construction work within the next 18 months, it said.

Contractors for Highways England will begin work on the first one later this summer – a nine-mile stretch of the M62 linking the M6 near Warrington to the M60 near Eccles.

Drivers have already been able to use over 10 miles of extra lanes on the M62 near Rochdale since December last year, and a stretch of smart motorway has also been completed on the M60 near the Trafford Centre.

The final temporary narrow lanes were removed earlier this week on the Manchester smart motorway scheme, and more than 200 electronic signs are due to be switched on later this month on a nine-mile stretch of the M60 between Trafford Park and the M62/M66 interchange at Simister Island.

Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North, said: “Smart motorways have been proven to be effective at tackling congestion, with the smart motorway on the M62 in West Yorkshire saving commuters an average of 30 minutes each week.

“We’ll be starting work on four new smart motorways in the North West over the next 18 months and will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum, including only closing parts of the motorway overnight when traffic levels are much lower.”

Smart motorways use technology that monitors traffic levels so that variable speed limits can be set automatically on overhead electronic signs to keep traffic moving at a steady speed.

New CCTV cameras will also provide 100% coverage of the routes and Highways England will be able to display red Xs on overhead signs to close any lane, allowing its traffic officers and the emergency services to get through.

Construction work will begin on a three-mile stretch of the M62 near junction 12 this summer. Temporary narrow lanes will be introduced to allow contractors to work at the side of the motorway, and a 50mph speed limit will be needed for the safety of drivers and workers. The roadworks will be gradually extended to junction 10 by the autumn and the smart motorway scheme is due to be completed by spring 2020.

Work will start in spring 2019 on a four-mile smart motorway on the M56 near Manchester Airport, and on a 10-mile stretch of smart motorway on the part of the M6 which links the M62 near Warrington to the M58 near Skelmersdale.

A new 19-mile smart motorway will be created over the Pennines on the M62 between Rochdale and Brighouse. The route will link up with other schemes on the M62 to create almost 60 miles of smart motorway between the North West and Yorkshire, with construction work due to start in autumn 2019.

Article courtesy of The Construction Index July 2018

CONSTRUCTION CONSOLIDATES AFTER SHAKY START TO YEAR

Construction buyers reported a steady continuation of industry growth following a dip in output earlier this year.

 The  latest IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index for May registered 52.5 – exactly the same figure as April.

Crucially the figure remains above the 50 mark which represents the threshold for continuing expansion.

But optimism about future growth fell to a seven month low and purchasing costs rose sharply particularly for fuel, plastic and steel.

Sam Teague, Economist at IHS Markit and author of the report said: “The May PMI data signalled an unchanged pace of activity growth across the UK’s construction sector since April’s somewhat underwhelming rebound, yet nevertheless indicating a recovery in the second quarter after the contraction seen at the start of the year.

“However, activity in May was once again buoyed by some firms still catching up from disruptions caused by the unusually poor weather conditions in March, and a renewed drop in new work hinted that the recovery could prove short-lived.

“Inflows of new business slipped back into decline, signalling the resumption of the downward trend in demand seen during the opening quarter.

“Companies frequently noted that Brexit uncertainty and fragile business confidence led clients to delay building decisions in May.

“With new order books deteriorating and cost pressures picking back up, it’s not surprising to see construction firms taking a dimmer view of prospects and pulling-back on hiring, all of which makes for a shaky-looking outlook.”

Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said: “The two millstones of uncertainty and weak economic growth gave the sector plenty to worry about this month, and whilst activity still grew, the lowest business confidence in seven months suggests the subdued pipeline of new work is having an effect. With a decline in new orders for a fourth time in five months, it was client hesitation and consumer diffidence towards spending that had construction activity stuttering.

“Higher prices for fuel, raw material shortages, higher labour costs combined with slow delivery times were further obstacles to growth as firms nervously assessed their workforce for much-needed talent and sub-contractors could name their price.

“However, it’s encouraging to see the housing sector put in a strong performance for a second month running, after stumbling at the beginning of the year, and with only small improvements in the other sectors, residential building is keeping construction’s head above water.

“It’s likely that the construction sector’s performance will be a slow and steady crawl through the second quarter, as the spectre of Brexit continues to dominate, and the double pincer movement of few orders, and higher costs, could see the sector stutter further.”

Article courtesy of ‘Construction Enquirer’ June 2018

OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS FOR CIVILS CONTRACTORS

Civil engineering contractors say that their workload was marginally down in the first quarter of 2018, overall, but orders were up.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association’s workload trends survey for 2018 Q1 in Great Britain suggests things are looking up, therefore.

Overall, 28% of the respondents reported that workloads had fallen compared to a year ago, and 44% of the respondents reported that workloads were unchanged.

For England, only 9% of firms, on balance, reported an increase in workloads in Q1, down from 21% in Q4. In Wales, after reporting a negative balance (-33%) in Q4, workloads increased according to 47% of firms, on balance. However, in Scotland, workloads declined for a second consecutive quarter in Q1, according to 38% of firms, on balance. This was the weakest balance since 2010 Q1.

However, order books are as strong as they have been for three years, with 44% of firms reporting that orders had increased compared to a year ago and 35% of firms saying that they were unchanged.

In England, 55% of firms reported that orders had increased and 28% reported that they were unchanged. The net balance of 38% of firms reporting an increase in orders, up from 13% in the previous quarter, was the highest since 2015 Q1.

Welsh contractors reported a negative balance of -6% for orders in Q4 2017 but the start of 2018 saw a turnaround, with a balance of 46% of firms seeing orders increase.

For a second consecutive quarter, orders in Scotland decreased, on balance, according to 3% of firms. Overall, 34% of firms reported that orders had declined.

CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “2018 has seen challenging market conditions in the UK’s infrastructure sector, where the aftershocks of the Carillion liquidation continue to be felt. We believe there is more the government can do to support the sector, by committing to projects outlined in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan and continuing to develop this pipeline to secure economic growth.

“At the same time, our members are reporting that they are expecting orders to turn into activity, as schemes come forward to market in the coming year.

“While the first quarter of 2018 has proved a challenging period for many of our members, we believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that industry will act as a platform for secure growth in the coming years.”

The CECA survey does not include Northern Ireland.

Article courtesy of  ‘The Construction Index’ 

Gender pay gap among 30 top contractors revealed

Laing O’Rourke has recorded the lowest inequality in pay between men and women among Britain’s top 30 main contractors.

The firm’s record on equal pay was revealed as thousands of employers with over 250 staff were forced to published their gender pay gap figures for the first time.

The Government hopes this will help to shine a light on the barriers preventing women from reaching the top.

Construction ranks as one of the worst industry’s for pay inequality with women paid 36% less than men on average.

The first returns by leading main contractors reveals Laing O’Rourke is way ahead on pay equality with women on average paid just under 9% less than men.

Companies had to file data based on a “snapshot” of their payroll taken on 5 April 2017.

The discrepancy among major players is widened because fewer women are among the top earners in the industry.

This appears to have impacted BAM Construct which recorded the highest pay gap and women accounting for 68% of the lowest quartile of earners in its workforce.

The listing of the top 30 main contractors compiled by the Enquirer is ranked by the median, which gives a good sense of where a company is overall, the mean figures will include the outliers with large salaries.

Main contractor pay gap reports
Hourly rate % lower than men % of women in pay quartile
Mean Median Highest paid Lowest Paid
Laing O’Rourke Services 6.6 8.8 9.8 13.4
Ferrovial Agroman UK 20.6 20.7 18 54
Kier Ltd 27 26 12.0 39.0
Skanska UK plc 27.2 26.7 10.9 36.8
Costain Eng & Con 26.6 27 9.9 43.6
BAM Nuttall 26.2 27.7 7.0 33.0
Keepmoat Ltd 19.6 28.5 28 48
Interserve Construction 30.3 29.7 4 27.6
Sir Robert McAlpine 29.4 30 7.4 27.5
VolkerWessels UK 38.2 30.5 9.1 32
Balfour Beatty Group Emp. 27 33 7.0 31.0
Wates Group Services 29.5 33 10.0 39.8
Lendlease Construction Europe 30.4 33 6 33
Morgan Sindall Group 31 33 8.0 31.0
Galliford Try Emp. 30.7 33.2 9.3 36.7
Geoffrey Osborne 36 34.2 8 48
Ardmore Construction 31 35 12 40
John Graham Construction 37.4 36.8 7 36.6
Buckingham Group 30.4 38.4 2.7 33.6
Mace 34.5 39.9 7 48
ISG Construction 34.7 40.5 4.8 41.9
Bouygues UK 31.6 40.9 11.6 54.5
Willmott Dixon Construction 35.5 43.5 4.7 42.5
John Sisk 37.3 44.5 5 46
Bowmer & Kirkland 37.3 44.6 5 35
Multiplex Europe 43 47.2 5 43.6
Vinci Construction UK 43.6 48.5 7.0 55.1
McLaren 48 51 2.8 43.4
Midas Group 49.2 51.5 1.0 48.6
BAM Construct UK 46.9 59.6 7.4 68.0

The mean hourly rate is the average hourly wage across the entire organisation so the mean gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between women’s mean hourly wages and men’s mean hourly wages.

The median hourly rate is calculated by ranking all employees from the highest paid to the lowest paid, and taking the hourly wage of the person in the middle; so the median gender pay gap is the difference between women’s median hourly wage (the middle paid woman) and men’s median hourly wage (the middle paid man).
Article courtesy of Construction Enquirer 2018.

Highways England commences hunt for principle contractor for its Area 10 highways and motorways upkeep contract.

The 15-year term maintenance contract is expected to be worth up to £326m.

Balfour Beatty’s joint venture with Mott MacDonald has held the region covering Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester since 2012.

At the end of last year the team secured a £115m Asset Support Contract extension to March 2019 when Highways England will start its new-style contracts.

This will see Highways England take a lead role managing both routine maintenance and the delivery of capital renewal and improvement schemes, while appointing a principal maintenance and response contractor.

Several specialist subcontractor improvement packages, let under a construction works framework worth up to £220m, will also be up grabs in a separate tender race.
Article courtesy of Construction Enquirer 2018.