Subbies race for £500m new-style roads deals

Highways England has formally invited bids for specialist works contracts under its new road maintenance regime for the East Midlands.

The roads body is abandoning asset support style contracts to replace the Area 7 managing agent deal with a more traditional contract model bringing control of maintenance in-house once again.

It made the decision to use Area 7 as a test-bed for a different approach after announcing at the start of the year that it would rerun five ASC regions bid races.

Previous bids were rejected because of a mismatch between contractor’s low bid prices and quality of service expected.

The new one-off framework is now being estimated at £500m over four years, rather than a £300m costing used in previous estimates.

It will see Highway England shifting from relying on a main contractor to manage the repair and maintenance regime to directly managing the process in-house.

Highways England bosses believe the move will given them greater insight into day-to-day delivery issues and better cost models for future tender assessments.

The latest works framework is one of four that are going out to tender for Area 7.

A 15-year maintenance and response contract was advertised in August, worth a potential £15m-£35m a year.

Contracts for design work and for specialist services are also being prepared.

The packages will cover: Civil engineering works including earthworks; fencing, landscaping; road restraints; drainage and ducts; pavements, kerbs, footways, paved areas; traffic signs and markings; road lighting and electrical work for lighting; structures — piling and retention walls and structural concrete; waterproofing; painting; and any other similar duties.

The contracts will all begin on 1 July 2016, once the current Managing Agent Contract with Aone+ has expired.

The new contract arrangements in the East Midlands bring with them new employment opportunities, with Highways England looking to boost its in-house capability through the recruitment of new staff – with a significant number expected to transfer from the current Area 7 provider Aone+.

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