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2013 Preview: Rail

Rail work was a boost to construction in 2012 and that trend should continue this year, with major contracts to be won from Crossrail, Network Rail and the industry already engaged with preliminary work on High Speed 2.

Crossrail will award its final main station contract for Bond Street by March, while a £2.3bn package of work carried out by Network Rail on behalf of Crossrail will pick up pace in 2013.

Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Skanska and Vinci will learn who has won two contracts for 13 western stations in the spring, while the north-eastern stations will go out to tender at around the same time.

In Q2, Crossrail will reveal the winner of its tunnel fit-out package – five bidders are shortlisted for the deal worth up to £400m – and the Ilford Yard stabling contract where Balfour Beatty, Vinci and VolkerFitzpatrick are battling for the deal worth around £45m.

However, since Crossrail programme director Andy Mitchell told CN he wanted the £14.8bn scheme to be a ‘flagbearer’ for UK construction, the rail client has been witness to a series of negative incidents.

A hopper collapse at Westbourne Park led to all tunnelling being suspended in October, after which blacklisting claims and a dispute with Royal Mail over its proposed development at Paddington have come to light.

A Barhale employee was then hospitalised with injuries sustained after an explosion at a Crossrail site in High Holborn last month; the scheme’s bosses will be keen for a more positive start to 2013 as spending increases from its current £100m every four weeks.

The Construction Products Association’s latest forecast for growth shows rail climbing 17 per cent in 2013 compared to its 2012 estimates.

WSP UK head of rail Jim Fernand says: “We’re going to see more work next year as the sector gears up for CP5, which focuses on electrification and power upgrade.

“HS2, Crossrail and the West and East Coast Mainlines will remain the projects everyone has their sights set on, but we’ll also see local authorities continue to fund more regional projects.”

Away from work, the rail industry will continue to have to find ways to modernise itself and use innovative ways to reduce unplanned interventions on the UK’s railways.

The shambolic West Coast Main Line £5bn franchise decision has put rail procurement into the spotlight, and while whispers have not yet materialised about contractors challenging historic contract awards, the Department for Transport and regulators will no doubt be keeping a close eye on big-money deals this year.

A Rail Technical Strategy published last month by the Technical Strategy Leadership Group, which includes industry bodies such as the Rail Delivery Group, called for a set of cost-saving generic designs for infrastructure to be researched and developed.

It says measures such as compiling an industry-wide infrastructure asset register and research into low-carbon construction processes can help to improve performance in the industry and that new ways of delivering standard designs of infrastructure, including modular designs for bridges, could reduce project timescales and costs.

Contracts to watch in 2013:

Feb/March Crossrail to award contract worth around £200m for the main station at Bond Street

Spring Network Rail to award two contracts for detailed design and construction of 13 western Crossrail stations

Spring Tenders to be issued by Network Rail for contracts to design and build north-eastern Crossrail stations

Q2 Crossrail to choose a contractor from five teams incorporating 12 contractors for its £400m tunnel fit-out deal

Q2 Contract awarded for Ilford Yard stabling contract where Balfour Beatty, Vinci and VolkerFitzpatrick are battling for the deal worth around £45m

June Network Rail to selects its civils partner for Northern Hub Inner alliance worth between £50m and £200m

July The winning team is selected for the £500m Bank Station upgrade with London Underground

August London Underground’s 30-year PFI power network contract with a Powerlink consortium, which includes Balfour Beatty, to be terminated at the half-way point

Q3 Network Rail Infrastructure will select a maximum of 16 contractors for its five-year Plain Line Track Works framework worth up to £650m over five years

Q3 Crossrail to award a contract worth up to £50m for civil engineering and fit-out works at Paddington New Yard

Network Rail has already committed to bringing suppliers in at an earlier stage to work on construction plans and this should start to bear fruit in terms of cost and timescales.

But for now, the most pressing point of interest for contractors is Network Rail’s publication of its strategic business plan for Control Period 5 (2014-19) this month before CP5 starts in April 2014.

The Periodic Review 2013 will establish Network Rail’s output, spending and its incentives framework for the industry. The government has already announced it wants to carry out £9.4bn of work in the five-year period from 2014 and with an election two years away, industry will be pressing for more of that money sooner rather than later.

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