HS2 warns it can switch civils contract to rivals

HS2 has warned contractors it will strip them of civils contracts and hand them to rival joint ventures if they consistently produce sub-par designs.

Mike Hickson, programme director for the central section of HS2 phase one, told Construction News that regular bad performance through the design phase of the civils deals would see JVs removed from their contracts and automatically trigger a new bidding contest between HS2’s other civils firms.

Mr Hickson said: “We’ve written the contract in such a way, and contractors are aware of it, that we can change out a contractor which is not performing.

“We would not look elsewhere, we would effectively offer one our current contractors the work.”

He added: “We have effectively created a framework; if contractor A was not performing we would say to contractor B, C, D or E, ‘You go and bid for the work’.”

In July HS2 picked four joint ventures for the seven civils deals worth £6.6bn covering the line from London to Birmingham.

The only contracts officially signed in July were for the design of the works.

The contractors will progress to the delivery stage of the contract when a design, cost estimate and programme is agreed with HS2– a process that could take until early 2019.

Costain / Skanska / Strabag JV landed the two southern packages worth £1.74bn, Carillion / Eiffage / Kier secured the two of the central section packages worth £1.34bn, and Balfour Beatty / Vinci won both northern packages worth £2.47bn.

The Bouygues TP / VolkerFitzpatrick / Sir Robert McAlpine Align JV was picked for the £965m Chiltern Tunnel and Colne Valley viaduct package on the central section of the line.

To monitor contractor performance through the design phase, HS2 has set up a series of gateways through which the contractors must pass to ensure they remain part of the phase one delivery.

“It is a formulaic process that allows us to track progress and we should be doing that; we should know well in advance that we are on track, that we are in the right ballpark for the numbers, that we are the right programme and we develop that as we go through, but there are checkpoints so the contractor knows he has got to have that bit done by then,” Mr Hickson said.

“The whole point of the gateway process is we don’t want to get to a stage where we are changing one out; we don’t need to.”

Speaking to CN eight weeks into the process, Mr Hickson said the contractors were currently at gateway two and HS2 had seen nothing to raise concern at this stage.

He expected the design firms to “fire up in the new year”, with offices across Europe working on various parts of the HS2 phase one line.

He said: “We will end up with design houses across the UK and Europe. Each JV is using a number of design houses and splitting them up in different ways.

“One JV might say all of my viaducts will be designed in Paris, while all my embankments will be designed in Derby, and what they have tended to do is create a design joint venture.”

Arcadis has been chosen as the main design partner for the CEK JV; Mott MacDonald is Balfour Beatty / Vinci’s partner; and Jacobs and French firm Ingerop will support the Align team.

It is understood that Arup will be the chief design partner for the Skanska / Costain / Strabag consortium.