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Carillion_04 29_2281To implement its share of the 2010 spending review the Highway Agency designed a new contact for its motorway maintenance. The new Asset Support Contract (ASC), as it was known, was targeted to achieve a 40% reduction in costs.

In April 2012, before any of its areas had been put out for tender under the ASC, I wrote to the then roads minister Mike Penning  highlighting the contracts defects and recommending that its implementation be suspended – all to no avail.

In October 2014 I submitted a briefing note to Colin Matthews the incoming Highways Agency Chairman pointing out the failings of the ASC. I said “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“.

Two months later the Agency suspended the procurement of the contracts for Areas 4 (Kent, Surrey, West and East Sussex) and 12 (Yorkshire & Humberside) pending a redesign of the contract.

Now, a year on  (December 2015), HE have announced that procurement for these two areas will after all go out to tender under the Asset Support Contract BUT …

…… Cornwall and Devon (Area 1); Somerset, Avon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire (Area 2); Cumbria and parts of Lancashire (Area 13); Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and North Yorkshire (Area_14) will not.

Instead Highways England will  bring control and management of the maintenance work in-house,  selecting individual contractors to deliver specific elements of the work in each region.

This will, they say,  increase their intelligence on local factors that influence where work is needed. 

I would translate this as we will know what’s happening and will be able to do something about it whereas, at the moment, we have little control over our contractors as we have not set proper standards for them to work to against which we could monitor them, assuming we did any meaningful monitoring which we do not.

Replacement contracts, they say, are expected to be broken down into:

Maintenance and Response Contract: — Routine highway maintenance work; defect repairs, emergency incident response; delivering a severe weather service; and other similar duties; [Presumably “cleansing/litter picking” comes will come under under “similar duties”].

Capital Delivery (works) Contract — 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;

Design Contract — Preparing technical designs and undertaking supporting work for capital projects from an initial brief stage to as-built details including project enabling tasks and other similar duties;

Specialist Support Services Contracts — May include but not limited to, technical surveys; laboratory testing; road safety audits, principle inspections, meteorological forecastin

See Article in the Construction Enquirer

It was later reported that:

The Kier Group had won extensions to existing contracts with Highways England including a 20-month extension up to June 2017 to the existing managing agent contractor (MAC) contract for the Area 1 contract in Devon and Cornwall and a 17-month extension up to March 2017 on the Area 13 contract in Cumbria and North Lancashire.

Highways consortium A-one+ has won two major maintenance contracts with Highways England worth £825m. The contracts for Area 12 Yorkshire and Humberside and Area 4 in Kent and Sussex will start next June and run for five years. Together they have a combined estimated value of £140m-£165m per year.

A-one+, which consists of a three-way joint venture between CH2M, Colas and Costain also has a potential three-year extension on both. The contracts will operate following the new asset support contract delivery model, which Highways England has decided to abandon in forthcoming procurement in favour of directly controlling maintenance work, employing designers and contractors under separate packages.

The latest deal represents renewal of Area 12 and the addition of Area 4 to the A-one+ portfolio.


Peter Silverman
17th December 2015



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