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Asset Support Contract tenders withdrawn by Highways England (Highways Agency) two months after critique sent to new Chairman

NCE headlineAn article in the New Civil Engineer of 17th December 2014 reported that:

The previous day the Highways Agency had suspended procurement for the latest tranche of it roads maintenance contracts.

The reason given was to “give further consideration to what the successful contractor will be required to deliver under the terms of the new contract

Invitations to tender for Areas 4 and 12 had been withdrawn. (Area 4 covers the motorways and key trunk roads in Kent, Sussex and some small areas of Surrey and Hampshire and Area 12 covers Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire).

Read the article in full

The Asset Support Contract was introduced by  Highways Agency (now Highways England) following the the 2010 Spending Review to help cut costs and was being gradually rolled out to it’s 25 areas. The contract covers all maintenance work.

In April 2012 before the first Areas were put out for tender I wrote to the then roads minister Mike Penning  highlighting its defects and recommending that its implementation be suspended.

On 8th October 2014 I wrote a briefing note for the new Chairman of the Highways Agency, Colin Matthews. In it I said in respect to the Asset Support Contract (ASC):

A defective contract

In respect to sweeping and cleaning the ASC fails to specify outputs and/or inputs in such a way that the Agency could monitor the provider’s performance against specification.

In any case the Agency carry out no routine physical inspections of cleanliness levels. The provider is allowed to mark his own homework.

When the contract was introduced in Area 10 no cleaning whatsoever was carried out for two months.

Thereafter the average number of bags of litter collected was 57% down on the level achieved previously.

In Area 2 the slip roads on the M32 seems to be cleaned at the rate of once every 10 months and the main
carriageway verges only every 4 months. One slip road verge has not been cleaned for over 2.5 years!

Areas operating under the old MAC contracts are just as bad. The provider for Area 7 has stated that:
“.. we are only obliged to clear litter once a year or when possible within any maintenance works where traffic management is in place”.

Two months later the ongoing invitations to tender were withdrawn.

Peter Silverman
13th January 2015


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