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CN Briefing: Highways England; Collaborative Delivery Framework; Routes to Market; Jim O'Sullivan

With the launch of Highways England’s £7bn Routes to Market framework expected in spring, the highways sector was already gearing up for a big change.

But few would have guessed that change would have come quite so quickly.

Today CN revealed that Highways England would be regionalising its Collaborative Delivery Framework.

Under the new system, the CDF’s 10 consultants will will be guaranteed to win work, which has been clustered in regional packages.

Highways England should be commended for this move.

If you were to speak to any roads consultant about CDF, it wouldn’t take too long before they start to grumble about the extra costs incurred through ‘mini-bids’.

These concerns have been listened to and acted upon.

So what about contractors? Could regionalisation work for them?

There are possible negatives, with a strictly regional approach potentially having an impact on quality.

Firms will always go to where the money is and where they are strongest, after all.

So packages with more projects or areas like the South-east could be more hotly contested, with the successful few taking all of the riches.

That could leave the less attractive packages to the remaining firms in areas in which they perhaps have less experience.

But there are positives too.

Firstly, it would guarantee work. Another criticism of the CDF has been that contractors are not being awarded enough work.

A regional approach would guarantee at least three or four projects for each firm and would help contractors plan ahead. As a result, supply chains could be developed and skills could be more easily secured.

Such efficiencies could help the roads sector become more profitable. But all eyes on the consultant lots first.

If it’s a failure, it will be back to the drawing board for Highways England’s procurement team.

But if it’s a success, regional bidding could be used within the new Routes to Market framework next year – and not just for consultants, but contractors as well.

To see full details of Highways England’s CDF shake-up, read here.

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